Anoles dive with an oxygen tank

More than ten years ago, one of the zoologists at the University of Toronto noticed a strange feature in the Haitian anole lizards. Local anoles live near rivers and streams, and spend a lot of time in the water, looking for something to profit from, or hiding from ground predators. And now, one of the anoles, diving into the water, suddenly appeared on the nose of a rather noticeable air bubble – it either decreased or increased, as if the lizard was breathing air from the bubble, then exhaling. It was as if the anolis was taking an oxygen tank with him.

Recently, staff at the University of Toronto, along with colleagues from Columbia, the United States and Mexico, decided to find out in more detail what it was. This time, the researchers studied anoles from Costa Rica. They were collected by three hundred individuals belonging to different species; some anoles were semi-aquatic, and some were predominantly terrestrial, living far enough from water.

Both were offered to dive into the aquarium with water. Both of them had a bladder on their noses, but those anoles that live near the water stayed under water longer and more often inhaled air from the nasal bladder than more terrestrial species. In an article in Current Biology it is said that one of the lizards spent 18 minutes under water. (By the way, naked mole rats can withstand the same amount without oxygen.)

How this bubble is formed is not entirely clear, but the authors of the work believe that the water-repellent skin of anoles plays a role here. When the anole goes under water, a thin layer of air remains on the skin, which also captures the nostrils, and when the anole exhales, the layer of air expands, forming a bubble. But most likely, the anoles have some other tricks that do not allow the “oxygen cylinder” to come off the nose and float up.

As the lizard inhales and exhales air from the bubble, the oxygen level in it should decrease. Indeed, the researchers inserted a tiny oxygen sensor into the bubble, which showed that there was indeed less oxygen in it. That is, anoles really breathe with the help of their bubble. Probably, the longer the anole sits under water, the slower its metabolism goes – by slowing down the metabolism, you can save oxygen.

On the other hand, the more carbon dioxide becomes in the bubble, the more actively this carbon dioxide must go into the surrounding water, and oxygen can come from the water into the bubble. That is, the bubble on the face of the lizards is quite capable of working, like the gills of fish. But whether such a gas exchange really takes place in the bubble, or whether the anoles make do with the oxygen they took from the air, it will become clear only after new research.

Based on materials ScienceNews

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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