Weird Lizards In New Guinea Have Green Blood, Muscles, And Bones

Scientists Say These Toxic Green Blooded Lizards Could Show Us How to Save Lives

Prasinohaema prehensicauda is a green-blooded lizard with high concentrations of biliverdin, or a toxic green bile pigment, found in New Guinea. Originally discovered in 1969, the unusual skinks were assigned to a genus called Prasinohaema, which literally means "green blood" in Greek. In fact, LiveScience reports that these odd skinks are "surprisingly healthy" despite having 40 times more biliverdin in their system than the lethal concentration in humans.

Not only can these skinks survive the incredibly high levels of toxicity, there are multiple species of these green-blooded skinks running around New Guinea, suggesting that there's some evolutionary advantage to it. "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.

A new investigation, published online today (May 16) in the journal Science Advances, finds that skinks likely evolved to have green blood a total of four different times throughout history, suggesting that this trait is evolutionarily advantageous.

Another striking thing about the green-blooded lizards is that they give birth to live offspring.

"The bones are green, the muscles are green, the tissues are green, the tongue and mucosal lining is green."
Only one species, Prasinohaema virens, lays eggs, LiveScience notes.

To understand the evolutionary history of the green-colored blood, Rodriguez and his colleagues did a genetic analysis of 51 species of skink, including six species that have green blood (two of which were previously unknown to science).

"Our key finding was that green-blooded lizards are not each other's closest relatives, and they all likely evolved from an ancestor that had red blood". "We just don't necessarily know exactly what it is right now". While the function of the green bile in the lizards remains uncertain, several studies have shown that that bile pigment can have antioxidant properties and also helps to prevent disease during in vitro fertilization.

To be clear: this isn't a kind of poison the skinks secrete from their skin as a dense mechanism, this is their blood.

If you thought the acidic, greenish-yellow xenomorph blood from Alien seemed far-fetched, then consider that there are skinks in New Guinea whose green blood is so packed with toxic chemicals that it would be enough to kill a human.

"The green-blooded skinks of New Guinea are fascinating to me as a parasitologist because a similar liver product, bilirubin, is known to be toxic to human malaria parasites", she said.

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