Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

The Lizards With Lime-Green Blood

The Lizards With Lime-Green Blood The Lizards With Lime-Green Blood
Elijah Vega | 17 May, 2018, 17:13

They found that green blood in these lizards likely evolved four different times, and that all of the green-blooded lizards were probably descended from a red-blooded ancestor. But evolutionarily, the trait isn't so odd. Rodriguez, Austin and colleagues investigated the evolutionary history of green blood, which evolved in several species of New Guinea lizards.

Scientists are now trying to understand how these lizards might benefit from blood that's green.

An earlier study from the University of Texas, US, found that Prasinohaema plasma contains a biliverdin concentration approximately 40 times greater than that found in jaundiced humans.

"There's so much green pigment in the blood that it overshadows the brilliant crimson coloration of red blood cells", coauthor Chris Austin, a biologist at Louisiana State University, tells NPR. "The bones are green, the muscles are green, the tissues are green, the tongue and mucosal lining is green". This sample came from the green-blooded lizard Prasinohaema prehensicauda, which lives in the highlands of New Guinea.

For the study, they analyzed 51 skink species living in Papua New Guinea.

The bile pigments, known as biliverdin and bilirubin, are toxic by-products of red blood cell catabolism - the process by which enzymes breakdown large molecules into smaller components. "Ongoing work with the Austin lab examines the potential effect of the green blood pigment on malaria and other parasites that infect these lizards", said co-author Susan Perkins, curator and professor at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and the Division of Invertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History.

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If that turns out to be true, the question is why some lizards would find it easier to be green.

Austin initially thought that the buildup of biliverdin might deter predators by making the lizards distasteful.

The researchers figured that the greens in these lizards does not arise as a single cluster but are scattered among reds. Multiple origins of green blood in New Guinea lizards.

"Our current hypothesis is that this novel and toxic physiology might have evolved to reduce or preclude the infection of blood parasites such as malaria", Austin said.

This basic research might someday lead to a better understanding of both this disease and jaundice, says Rodriguez. The fact that green blood emerged independently four times in separate lineages suggests that it must have had an adaptive value, but the team isn't quite sure what that value is yet. Slightly elevated levels of bile pigments in other animals, including insects, fish and frogs, have played potentially positive roles in these animals.

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