More on Hippo Sweat

Hippo sweat sounds really kind of gross. I’ve never seen any close-up and in person (unlike Brady Barr), but I understand that it is reddish-orange in color and resembles blood. It’s not even really sweat, but a liquid that exudes from large and deep pores in the hippo’s skin that blocks ultraviolet light and microbial growth. Unlike human sweat, hippo secretions don’t seem to cool the animals, who tend to just lumber back into the water to cool down. Of course, scientists can’t agree on the cooling property of hippo sweat. It seems clear, however, that the sweat prevents growth of two types of disease-causing bacteria, which may help explain why hippo gashes and wounds rarely seem to get infected, even though male hippos have frequent, fierce fights. (Here’s a good, scientific article on it if you want to learn more: Red Sweat: Hippo skin oozes antibiotic sunscreen.)

Now a group of U.S. researchers at the University of California claims to have uncovered the secrets of hippo sweat and is speculating on the marketability of a four-in-one product including a sunscreen, sunblock, antiseptic and insect repellent containing the magic hippo sweat ingredient. University of California engineering professor Christopher Vinney and his colleagues analyzed hippo sweat collected at a Fresno zoo, and found that it is composed of two types of liquid crystalline structures. One contains microscopic structures that scatter light. The other thins the sweat so it spreads evenly over the hippo’s broad backside. (MSNBC has a great article on this subject if you are like Elmo and want to know more.)

The findings are published in the current issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. I don’t exactly subscribe to this tome of knowledge, so if anyone would like to send me a copy, I would really appreciate it. I want to know what I’m doing when I slather my skin with hippo gunk before crisping in the sun.