Attack of the Mutant Barnacles?

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:31PM - Comments: (0)

August 31, 2010

Paprika, chili peppers, diaper rash ointment, tetracycline powder . . . now you can add pet sedative to the list of potential antifouling agents that have been or are being investigated.

Several alert Practical Sailor readers passed on news reports regarding new research by Professor Anders Blomberg at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Blomberg reports that his team, along with researchers in Finland, has discovered the gene that reacts to a medetomidine, a veterinary medicine that has been shown to prevent barnacle larvae from attaching to boat hulls.

According to the article, medetomidine activates genetic receptors in barnacle larvae and the receptors emit a signal that causes the barnacle larvae to swim away. Blomberg says very low concentrations of the substance are needed to drive the barnacles away.

Experiment results, which are published in the scientific journal Molecular Pharmacology, suggest that such research could produce an effective antifouling coating that deters barnacles without harming the environment. The identification of the gene also raises the possibility of creating genetically modified barnacles that have no appetite for boats coated with certain substances.

Mutant barnacle larvae? Sounds like a surefire blockbuster in 3-D.

Look for our latest report on antifouling paints in the October issue of Practical Sailor.

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