These lizards bleed green | Science News


Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

It's Alive

These lizards bleed green

Blood chemistry unknown in mammals or other reptiles still needs a good explanation

7:00am, August 9, 2016
<em>P. prehensicauda</em>

NO DENTIST NEEDED  Green blood gives the mouth tissue and tongue its unusual but perfectly healthy color in Prasinohaema lizards (female P. prehensicauda shown). Some fish and insects have greenish blood but no known mammals or other reptiles do.  

“Dark lime green” is how biologist Zachary Rodriguez describes the blood of the Prasinohaema lizards of New Guinea and surrounding islands. “Vivid,” he adds.

With green blood comes Granny Smith-colored muscles and bones and a blue-green mouth, exposed during defensive posturing. But the strangest thing about the five species of Prasinohaema lizard is that they can live like that.

Lime, apple and avocado can be risky blood colors. They indicate that these lizard species build up a toxic substance called biliverdin. The lizards’ red blood cells still depend on hemoglobin, the stuff that ferries oxygen and makes most animal blood red, but any lizard-blood redness is overwhelmed by massive concentrations of the green biliverdin. A breakdown product of hemoglobin, biliverdin gives the greenish edge to bruised human flesh. Most animal bodies quickly

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content