Lizards' Green Blood Evolved Four Times

Austin in May 2018 shows a prehensile tailed skink from the highlands of New Papua New Guinea. The high concentrations of the green bile pigment biliverdin in the blood overwh

As a similar liver product, bilirubin, is known to be toxic to human malaria parasites, the group is also conducting studies to see how the green bile pigment from these lizards affects malaria and other parasites.

"In addition to having the highest concentration of biliverdin recorded for any animal, these lizards have somehow evolved a resistance to bile pigment toxicity", said Rodriguez. However, even though animals in the Prasinohaema genus have levels of biliverdin that are 40 times greater than the lethal concentration in humans, the skinks are surprisingly healthy, the researchers said.

So Austin, Perkins, and their colleague Zachary Rodriguez made a decision to create a kind of lizard family tree by studying the DNA of 51 Australasian skink species, including six species that have green blood. Multiple origins of green blood in New Guinea lizards. Their results will be published on May 16 in Science Advances. However, the function of green bile pigment in these lizards is still uncertain.

A centrifuge can separate the components of lizard blood.

We are all used to blood being scarlet red, but some creatures seem to have it colored in odd shades. This led them to discover that the weird green coloured blood evolved independently four different times in the lizard called as skinks thriving in New Guinea. This sample came from the green-blooded lizard Prasinohaema prehensicauda, which lives in the highlands of New Guinea. The team studied the DNA of 51 species of New Guinea skinks, including six with green blood.

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"There really is a fundamental goal of this trait", says Perkins.

Austin initially thought that the buildup of biliverdin might deter predators by making the lizards distasteful. "We just don't necessarily know exactly what it is right now".

While analyzing the green-blooded skins, they found that there were four separate lines of green-blooded skins. But Rodriguez says, that can't be it. One theory is that the green blood protects the skinks against a host of parasites, like the many species of malaria that plague these reptiles.

Scientists previously believed that green-blooded skinks may be part of a closely related group but this wasn't the case.

He notes that test tube experiments have shown that moderately elevated levels of bilirubin seem to protect against human malaria infection - and hundreds of malaria species are known to infect lizards. Still, they're continuing to explore what kind of relationship there might be between malaria and green blood. "Understanding the underlying physiological changes that have allowed these lizards to remain jaundice-free may translate to non-traditional approaches to specific health problems", said lead author Zachary Rodriguez, a doctoral candidate in LSU Department of Biological Sciences Professor Chris Austin's lab. 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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