Trivia

Hard

Which of These Animals Secretes Sun Screen?

Dolphins
Hippopotamuses
Elephants
Armadillos
Photo of an individual hippopotamus in a zoo.
Kabacchi/Flickr

Answer: Hippopotamuses

Animals have various behaviors and mechanisms for dealing with sun exposure. Some creatures lie low when the sun is searing hot, hiding themselves away in burrows or lounging under tree cover. Other animals roll in mud to coat themselves with an opaque layer that might not do a lot to ward off the heat, but does protect them from ultraviolet exposure. And in the rare case of the hippopotamus, the animal actually secretes a layer of effective sunscreen right onto its skin.

Hippos secrete a combination of acids, hipposudoric acid, and norhipposudoric acid (named, uncoincidentally, after the hippos on which they are found). These red and orange acid secretions perform a dual function for the hippo’s benefit. First, the acid inhibits the growth of disease-causing bacteria on their skin and then the acids oxidize into a reddish pigment that has UV protective qualities.

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