Like Astronauts, These Lizards Make Their Own Oxygen Reserves – All Pages

Lindsey Swierk

The air bubbles around the Anolis’ snout can help them breathe underwater for up to 18 minutes.

Nationalgeographic.co.id – Both astronauts and deep-sea divers need a glass helmet that serves to allow them to breathe longer in a vacuum.

Actually the air or oxygen in the helmets comes from the supplies they carry. The supply can be filled by a team inside the port or airport where the spacecraft takes off.

Then the device, when activated, delivers oxygen to the glass helmets, so they can breathe easy while looking at the surrounding scenery. But what if helmets and similar breathing apparatus turned out to be owned by other creatures thanks to their intelligence?

Some of the newly discovered small lizards, it turns out to have such abilities, based on reports in Current Biology (Vol 31, Issue 13), Senin (12/07/2021).

In the water, lizard like species Anolis endangered species can breathe air again. Once above the surface, they begin to collect air and store it in bubbles in their snouts.

“As anyone who has ever encountered one of these lizards can tell, they dive underwater when they feel threatened,” said Chris Boccia, lead author of the paper entitled Repeated evolution of underwater rebreathing in diving Anolis lizards that.

“They can also be quiet for a while—up to 18 minutes by my count,” he adds in Science News.

Currently, Boccia is a PhD student at Canada’s Queens University. Five years ago when he was a master’s student at the University of Toronto in evolutionary biology, he got a story from his professor, Luke Mahler about this phenomenon.

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Mahler in 2009 studied lizard species Anolis this is in the Caribbean Haiti. One time, he released it back into a clear and shallow river. He noticed a strange behavior, the lizard was blowing air around its snout as it clung to the rocky riverbed.

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This male Anolis lizard has colorful folds of skin that can extend its neck.  This neck serves to help them breathe underwater by supplying oxygen from the surface.

Luke Mahler

This male Anolis lizard has colorful folds of skin that can extend its neck. This neck serves to help them breathe underwater by supplying oxygen from the surface.

Then the lizard repeatedly inhaled and exhaled from the bubble.

But Mahler couldn’t learn more about the lizard species Anolis this, he should continue his ongoing research to other sites. Years later, it was told to Boccia, and he also participated in a paper examining the behavior of the lizard.

In search of such a lizard, Boccia and his research team had to fly to Costa Rica.

The challenge that Boccia and the team had to face was not only due to the species’ lizard which measures only 11 centimeters (not counting its tail). But to catch it, the researchers had to go out in the dark, when the lizards were resting.

“Doing this while they’re sleeping makes them less stressed, [sehingga] easier for us to catch them,” he explained.

They collected 150 lizards, 120 of which were near rivers, the rest were located far from rivers, and included several species related to Anolis.

Next the researchers observed their breathing behavior underwater in their research camp. They have prepared a container filled with river water to dip the lizards in it.

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Each of the teams then held them loosely underwater, so the lizards could come to the surface when they wanted to get some air supply.

When in the water, all these lizards carry air bubbles around their snouts. As his professor told him, these lizards seemed to be inhaling and exhaling through the bubbles. While land lizards breathe bubbles a few times, but do not breathe much, in contrast to their relatives who live in rivers more often and are submerged for longer.

Regarding how the air can be trapped by the lizards, Boccia and team write, it is the lizard’s waterproof skin that is a factor. When these lizards dive in water, a thin layer of air is likely trapped in their skin.

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The unique habit of aquatic analis was discovered by Lindsey Swierk, assistant research professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

YouTube/BinghamtonUniversity

The unique habit of aquatic analis was discovered by Lindsey Swierk, assistant research professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University, State University of New York.


When the lizard exhales, air escapes through the nostrils and expands the trapped air layer so that it becomes a bubble. Their lungs then function to control the size of the bubbles.

They also calculated the air content in the bubbles, and it turned out that gradually the amount of oxygen also decreased. Researchers do not yet know how the lizards can breathe with the decreased oxygen levels.

“It takes a lot of practice to do it without bothering them,” says Boccia.

As a provisional assumption, he expects chemical activity in the body to slow down, thus supporting cells and organs to work to control oxygen levels. This is indicated by their closed eyes as if sleeping, which is thought to reduce their need for oxygen so they can stay in the water longer.

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