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Which fish give milk? – Quora. Discus fishTheir milk is in fact a mucus-based secretion that coats the bodies of both parents. It is rich in proteins and antibodies. A few days after the young discus fish hatch from their eggs, they make their way to their parents, and feed on the mucus secretions coating their bodies.
Mammals aren’t the only animals that make milk for their babes
The newborn tsetse fly looks like a hand grenade and moves like a Slinky, and if you squeeze it too hard the source of its plumpness becomes clear — or rather a telltale white. The larva, it seems, is just a big bag of milk.
“Rupture the gut and the milk comes spilling out,” Attardo said.
And milk it truly is — a nutritional, biochemical and immunological designer fluid that the mother fly’s body has spun from her meals and pumped into her uterus, where her developing young greedily gulped it down.
Thus fattened on maternal largesse, a tsetse fly larva can safely burrow underground and pupate for 30 days before emerging as a full-blown adult with a nasty bite and a notorious capacity to transmit a deadly disease called sleeping sickness (aka African trypanosomiasis).
In a recent chemical and genetic analysis of tsetse fly milk, Attardo and his colleagues were startled to discover how similar it was to the product of the mammary gland that stamps humans as mammals. “I was expecting something completely off the wall and different,” he said. “But there are frightening, fascinating overlaps with mammalian milk in the kinds of proteins we see.”
The new tsetse fly research is just one example of scientists widening the ranks of adherents to nature’s Milky Way. Researchers lately have found the equivalent of mother’s milk in an array of unexpected, breast-free places: in spiders and burying beetles, in great white sharks, male emperor penguins and flamingos of both sexes.
Other scientists have traced the evolution of mammalian lactation and concluded that it arose not as a convenient way to feed a baby, but to help our egg-laying relatives tackle the challenge of water management on dry land.
A BROAD SAMPLE
Still other scientists are seeking to tally and understand the compositional differences in the milks from a broad sample of the world’s 5,500 or so mammals. They have unearthed a number of compelling concordances between the demands of oddball mammals and the makeup of their milk.
Assaying the milk of the nine-banded armadillo, for example, Michael Power, a lactation researcher at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, and his colleagues were impressed by the high levels of calcium and phosphorus they detected, and by the even greater concentrations of protein.
“The protein was through the roof, way above anything else in the milk,” said Power, co-author with Jay Schulkin of Milk: The Biology of Lactation.
The elevated mineral counts made sense. “What does an armadillo build? A bony shell,” Power said. “So there’s going to be a lot of calcium and phosphorus going into this baby.”
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But why all the protein?
The researchers soon realized it was a matter of chemistry. If you simply dropped large quantities of calcium and phosphorus into most types of mammalian milk, the minerals would glom together into insoluble phosphate compounds.
“They’d get stuck in the mammary gland and never reach the baby,” Power said. The solution? Throw in extra doses of casein proteins to bind the minerals into compact, usable nano-clusters.
“If I’m going to have a high-calcium, high-phosphorus milk, I have to have a high-protein milk,” Power said, “because a lot of that protein is a calcium-phosphorus delivery device.”
Biologists warn against the wanton use of the word milk — sorry, almond “milk” really isn’t — and some mammalogists would like to restrict the term to the secretions of a dedicated mammary gland, which only their study subjects happen to possess.
But many scientists concur that if a parent synthesizes or highly modifies a substance on which its offspring’s life then depends, that parent is making a milk. By this measure, predigested food alone may not count, but if the parent first adds essential ingredients, then the result can fairly be deemed a milk.
Wherever it appears, lactation is expensive. Flamingos are among the few birds that make milk for their young, and the effort drains them of all color — but at least it’s an egalitarian affair.
A male and female will jointly build a nest, incubate a single large egg and, when the egg hatches, churn out the rich crop milk on which the flamingo chick will feed for nine very long months. Begging calls from the chick stimulate in the parent’s brain the release of prolactin — the same hormone that subserves human lactation — which in turn prompts cells lining the crop, at the base of the parental throat, to swell and secrete the magic formula.
Brimming with protein and fattier than mammalian milk, flamingo milk “has the consistency of cottage cheese,” said Paul Rose, a flamingo researcher at the University of Exeter in Britain.
It is also bright pink. The parents spike the milk with the same carotenoid pigments that normally tint a flamingo’s feathers and that happen to be antioxidants — ideal for promoting a chick’s health and rapid growth.
Weeks and months pass. The parents must steadily step up milk production to meet ballooning demand. By the time the young flamingo is close to full-grown, robust in body and blushing of tone, its parents look thin and depleted, and their once-fuchsia feathers are now winter white.
“All of their energy, all their pink pigment, has gone into the crop milk,” Rose said. “Raising a flamingo is a very hard job.”
Only in the class Mammalia do all member species nurse their young, yet evolutionary biologists now believe that the roots of mammalian lactation date more than 300 million years, a good 100 million years before the first mammals appeared.
The ancestors of modern mammals are thought to have laid the sort of porous, parchment-shelled eggs seen today among lizards, snakes and a couple of weird, monotreme mammals like the platypus. In contrast to the hard-shelled calcified eggs of birds, parchment eggs are at chronic risk of drying out, which means modern snakes and lizards often are constrained by the need to lay their eggs in a relatively damp setting.
These ancient species stumbled on a liberating solution: Make yourself into a watering can, and you can lay your eggs wherever you want.
“The likely first function of milk was to hydrate parchment-shelled eggs laid on dry ground,” said Amy Skibiel of the University of Idaho, an expert in mammalian lactation. By this scenario, pre-mammals dribbled fluid onto their eggs through pores on their chest.
Parchment eggs also are at risk of microbial infiltration, and genetic studies suggest that the earliest egg hydration solutions were fortified with anti-pathogen components. It’s a moisturizer — no, it’s a cleanser! And why not continue with the watering post-hatch, souping up the fluids, through natural selection, into food for the babies?
Once the mammalian lineage had settled on the secretory approach to parenthood, milks quickly diversified, the recipes dictated by a combination of need, diet and who your relatives were.
DOUBLE THEIR WEIGHT
Hooded seal pups nurse on rapidly shrinking ice floes for just four days, and during that time they manage to double their weight. Not surprisingly, hooded seal milk is more than 60 percent fat — the fattiest milk among mammals.
It also smells overwhelmingly of fish, as I discovered when I sniff-tested a series of exotic milks at the National Zoo’s world-class milk bank. On the other end of the lipid scale, rhinoceros milk, at 2 percent fat, looks and smells like skim milk.
Elephant milk is less watery, and I was sure I caught notes of ice cream. Lion’s milk has no discernible odor and, like most carnivore milk, is low in sugars; meat eaters are designed to efficiently wrest their glucose from protein and fat.
Human milk, by contrast, is extremely sweet. Skibiel said it reminds her of cantaloupe.
The number and variety of sugars in human milk outstrip those seen in any other great ape, Power said, and he proposes a surprising reason for that bounty: not to build our big brain, as some have argued, but because we needed sugar’s anti-microbial powers to help us cope with all the novel pathogens we encountered after the agricultural revolution, when we started crowding into villages and living in close quarters with other animals.