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Green-Blooded Lizards

May 29, 2018

Some lizards thrive despite a toxic pigment that turns their blood green.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Lime green lizard blood. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

On the outside, green-blooded skinks from New Guinea look like ordinary lizards, but on the inside, their blood, muscles, and even their bones are green. High levels of the bile pigment biliverdin stain their blood lime-green, according to Louisiana State University evolutionary biologist Zachary Rodriguez.

ZACHARY RODRIGUEZ (Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science):

Green blood is actually a really dangerous trait to have because bile pigments are very toxic and in most vertebrates it would cause jaundice and even death, and yet this group of lizards remain perfectly healthy with levels of bile pigment that are about 10 to 20 times higher than the lethal concentration in humans.

HIRSHON:

His team reports in the journal Science Advances that amazingly, green-blooded skinks have evolved from red-blooded ancestors not once but at least four different times. Understanding how the pigment benefits the lizards could be a boon to medical research. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.  

Story by Susanne Bard

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