Scientists believe that 15 percent of coral trout in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffer from skin cancer.
This discovery came about when scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science began noticing lesions on the species while conducting a survey of shark prey in the area. With the help of a research team from the University of Newcastle who was studying coral disease on the reef, the two teams concluded that the fish are getting skin cancer from ultraviolet radiation.
Members of the team said the high skin cancer rate in fish – and humans – in Australia should come as no surprise as the island-continent sits under the Earth’s biggest hole in the ozone layer. Michael Sweet, a coral disease expert told the Los Angeles Times that the fish’s location on the reef might also contribute to the high cancer rate among the species.
“They are at the extreme of their habitat,” Sweet said. “They are struggling to cope, which means they will be more susceptible to more diseases.”
Scientists said that fish suffering from cancer are also more vulnerable to predators.