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Animals of the U: Zippy the Zebrafish

“I’ve spent my whole life at the University of Utah as one of the hundreds of thousands of zebrafish who make the school’s groundbreaking research possible. We zebrafish are a species of minnow from India and we get our name from the horizontal blue stripes across the sides of our two-inch bodies. As a social individual, I’ve enjoyed the company of the other fish in my shoal. While I can never get a moment alone, there is always someone to gossip with.

It might seem like zebrafish have little in common with humans, but we are helpful to researchers in modeling human diseases. Did you know that 70% of human genes are present in zebrafish? As you might guess, mice have more in common evolutionarily with humans, but we have some advantages compared to those walking fuzzballs when it comes to research. For instance, we breed very quickly, about every 10 days. I can put out 50 to 300 eggs at a time! I would like to see a mouse do that.

My friends and I have been part of a wide variety of research efforts at the U— from a project to learn more about a gene that may be important for the earliest development of basic social behaviors to one exploring the chemical female zebrafish use to protect their eggs from sunlight. I hear a company in Boston wants to learn how to copy this chemical to make sunscreen and all I can say is I expect a hefty royalty check if they succeed. Recently, researchers have been trying to figure out how our superpower of regenerating heart tissue works!

It’s common for zebrafish to be tropical aquarium fish. While I may enjoy the variety of other fish I could meet this way, I’m glad I have an opportunity to be a part of ground-breaking discoveries at the U.”

— Zippy, a member of the U’s zebrafish research shoal