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Solving the Mystery of Jimmy’s Red Sweat

Solving the Mystery of Jimmy’s Red Sweat In the 1950s, Harry Hurley and Walter Shelley, distinguished dermatologists at the University of Pennsylvania, devoted considerable attention to the apocrine gland. Their curiosity extended beyond human subjects, and their most fascinating subject was a rotund inhabitant of the Philadelphia Zoo, Jimmy the Hippopotamus. Since ancient times, travelers to the Nile Valley in Africa had reported that hippopotamuses “sweat blood.” Hurley and Shelley noted that Jimmy, when annoyed, excreted a “bloody” red sweat, especially on his head and shoulders. Since he was not fond of his handlers, their mere appearance elicited this response. The dermatologists were not foolhardy enough to attempt a biopsy on Jimmy and were not allowed to administer drugs to stimulate or diminish sweating. However, the slimy, turbid nature of the red discharge, as well as its association with emotional stimuli, convinced them it was apocrine in nature.1 In his autobiography many years later, Shelley wrote, “Just contemplating any experiments on Jimmy gave our axillae a nice wash of apocrine and eccrine sweat.”2 Jimmy was born wild in Africa in 1934 and arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1936. He was the subject of a famous Work Projects Administration (WPA) poster (Figure). His partner, Submarie, arrived in Philadelphia in 1950 from the Brookfield Zoo, the Chicago suburb of Brookfield, Illinois. The couple had 12 children before Jimmy died in 1977. In Submarie’s obituary in 1990, her long-term handler discussed the problems of keeping her weight below 4000 pounds. Figure. View LargeDownload A Poster Titled “Visit the Zoo—Philadelphia” Showing a Hippopotamus The poster was created between 1936 and 1941 as part of the Federal Art Project, Works Progress Administration (WPA). Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WPA Poster Collection (LC-USZC2-1885). Japanese investigators have studied the red apocrine sweat in hippos.3 They noted that the sweat was initially clear but turned red and then brown as the pigments polymerized. They collected the sweat by wiping a hippo’s face and back with gauze and extracted 2 aromatic acids derived from tyrosine precursors—red hipposudoric acid and orange norhipposudoric acid. These acids have antiseptic properties and also serve as sunscreens by scattering UV light. While there are still no biopsy studies clearly identifying the responsible glands as apocrine, this seems most likely. Shelley’s insatiable curiosity led him to many interesting observations, including Jimmy’s red sweat. He was very pleased many years later when another, more courageous, group obtained sweat samples. Today, researchers hope that further study of the hippo’s red sweat may lead to development of more potent sunscreens. In the meantime, the hippopotamus remains one of our favorite animals, bringing smiles of delight to all who behold this behemoth, including the noted American poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971) who wrote: The Hippopotamus Behold the hippopotamus! We laugh at how he looks to us, And yet in moments dank and grim, I wonder how we look to him. Peace, peace, thou hippopotamus! We really look all right to us, As you no doubt delight the eye Of other hippopotami. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Leonard J. Hoenig, MD, 601 N Flamingo Rd, Ste 201, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028 (gooddocljh@gmail.com). Additional Contributions: Dorinda Shelley, MD, Toledo, Ohio, provided literature and kindly reviewed the manuscript for accuracy. Robert Rudolph, MD, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also provided literature. They were not compensated for their assistance. References 1. Hurley HJ, Shelley WB. The Human Apocrine Sweat Gland in Health and Disease. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas; 2011:54-55. 2. Shelley WB. The Skin Around Me: Adventures in Dermatology.Rev. Ed. Traverse City, MI: Cooper Publishing; 2009:165. 3. Saikawa Y, Hashimoto K, Nakata M, et al. Pigment chemistry: the red sweat of the hippopotamus. Nature. 2004;429(6990):363.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JAMA Dermatology American Medical Association

Solving the Mystery of Jimmy’s Red Sweat

JAMA Dermatology , Volume 150 (8) – Aug 1, 2014

Solving the Mystery of Jimmy’s Red Sweat

Abstract

In the 1950s, Harry Hurley and Walter Shelley, distinguished dermatologists at the University of Pennsylvania, devoted considerable attention to the apocrine gland. Their curiosity extended beyond human subjects, and their most fascinating subject was a rotund inhabitant of the Philadelphia Zoo, Jimmy the Hippopotamus. Since ancient times, travelers to the Nile Valley in Africa had reported that hippopotamuses “sweat blood.” Hurley and Shelley noted that Jimmy, when annoyed,...
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Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2014 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
ISSN
2168-6068
eISSN
2168-6084
DOI
10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.10605
pmid
25133441
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In the 1950s, Harry Hurley and Walter Shelley, distinguished dermatologists at the University of Pennsylvania, devoted considerable attention to the apocrine gland. Their curiosity extended beyond human subjects, and their most fascinating subject was a rotund inhabitant of the Philadelphia Zoo, Jimmy the Hippopotamus. Since ancient times, travelers to the Nile Valley in Africa had reported that hippopotamuses “sweat blood.” Hurley and Shelley noted that Jimmy, when annoyed, excreted a “bloody” red sweat, especially on his head and shoulders. Since he was not fond of his handlers, their mere appearance elicited this response. The dermatologists were not foolhardy enough to attempt a biopsy on Jimmy and were not allowed to administer drugs to stimulate or diminish sweating. However, the slimy, turbid nature of the red discharge, as well as its association with emotional stimuli, convinced them it was apocrine in nature.1 In his autobiography many years later, Shelley wrote, “Just contemplating any experiments on Jimmy gave our axillae a nice wash of apocrine and eccrine sweat.”2 Jimmy was born wild in Africa in 1934 and arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1936. He was the subject of a famous Work Projects Administration (WPA) poster (Figure). His partner, Submarie, arrived in Philadelphia in 1950 from the Brookfield Zoo, the Chicago suburb of Brookfield, Illinois. The couple had 12 children before Jimmy died in 1977. In Submarie’s obituary in 1990, her long-term handler discussed the problems of keeping her weight below 4000 pounds. Figure. View LargeDownload A Poster Titled “Visit the Zoo—Philadelphia” Showing a Hippopotamus The poster was created between 1936 and 1941 as part of the Federal Art Project, Works Progress Administration (WPA). Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WPA Poster Collection (LC-USZC2-1885). Japanese investigators have studied the red apocrine sweat in hippos.3 They noted that the sweat was initially clear but turned red and then brown as the pigments polymerized. They collected the sweat by wiping a hippo’s face and back with gauze and extracted 2 aromatic acids derived from tyrosine precursors—red hipposudoric acid and orange norhipposudoric acid. These acids have antiseptic properties and also serve as sunscreens by scattering UV light. While there are still no biopsy studies clearly identifying the responsible glands as apocrine, this seems most likely. Shelley’s insatiable curiosity led him to many interesting observations, including Jimmy’s red sweat. He was very pleased many years later when another, more courageous, group obtained sweat samples. Today, researchers hope that further study of the hippo’s red sweat may lead to development of more potent sunscreens. In the meantime, the hippopotamus remains one of our favorite animals, bringing smiles of delight to all who behold this behemoth, including the noted American poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971) who wrote: The Hippopotamus Behold the hippopotamus! We laugh at how he looks to us, And yet in moments dank and grim, I wonder how we look to him. Peace, peace, thou hippopotamus! We really look all right to us, As you no doubt delight the eye Of other hippopotami. Back to top Article Information Corresponding Author: Leonard J. Hoenig, MD, 601 N Flamingo Rd, Ste 201, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028 (gooddocljh@gmail.com). Additional Contributions: Dorinda Shelley, MD, Toledo, Ohio, provided literature and kindly reviewed the manuscript for accuracy. Robert Rudolph, MD, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also provided literature. They were not compensated for their assistance. References 1. Hurley HJ, Shelley WB. The Human Apocrine Sweat Gland in Health and Disease. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas; 2011:54-55. 2. Shelley WB. The Skin Around Me: Adventures in Dermatology.Rev. Ed. Traverse City, MI: Cooper Publishing; 2009:165. 3. Saikawa Y, Hashimoto K, Nakata M, et al. Pigment chemistry: the red sweat of the hippopotamus. Nature. 2004;429(6990):363.PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

Journal

JAMA DermatologyAmerican Medical Association

Published: Aug 1, 2014

References