That scenario might very well transcend the imagination and become a reality, according to a study published this week in the journal Science Advances. The lizards, which are all classified in the genus Prasinohaema (meaning “green blood” in Greek), were discovered in 1969. Their current, admittedly speculative, hypothesis is that the biliverdin-rich blood protects against parasites. In humans, biliverdin is toxic and causes jaundice.
In science fiction, green blood is common. The lizards all belong to the genus Prasinohaema , which are skinks that have green blood. In most animals, explains Yong, hemoglobin cells die after about four months of service. Humans with elevated bilirubin, Greenfieldboyce reports, have some added protection against malaria parasites. Because green-bloodedness evolved independently four different times, researchers believe the trait is adaptive and offers an important evolutionary advantage.
It's green enough to overwhelm the color of the red blood cells and turn everything green, Austin said. In people, elevated green bile pigment levels sometimes kill malaria parasites. Monsters often have green blood because it’s strange and scary, the Xenomorphs from the Alien franchise have acidic green blood, and the Predator films introduced us to glowing green blood. As the researchers note, the bile pigment has shown in lab settings to be toxic to malaria parasites.
But it’s a tricky idea to test. “The naïve view is that if green blood evolved to prevent malaria, there would be no malaria in green-blooded lizards,” Austin tells Yong. Previous studies suggest bile pigments can take on an antioxidant role, finding and neutralizing free radicals. The fact that animals in this genus evolved so many times suggests that green blood may be advantageous, the researchers said.
August 20, 2016, p. Austin thinks that might be why lizards evolved to be green-blooded because malaria is an issue for New Guinea and lizards. The research, which was published in Science Advances , focused on tracing the origin of green-blooded Prasinohaema skinks and figuring out what made them different from their red-blood brethren. Malaria is a non-contagious often transmitted by mosquitos, that typically causes flu-like symptoms, and can be fatal in some cases.
Perkins and C.C. S. Milius. Animals’ jaundice pigment found in plants . Science News Online , February 20, 2009. Squids and octopuses have intense blue blood. Upon studying the blood of the lizards, the researchers were able to determine that a green bile pigment called biliverdin is responsible for the odd color. There are already drugs used to combat malaria, but they also come with the potential for an array of side effects that include vomiting, fever, and balance issues, among other things.
The greens did not emerge as a single cluster, but were scattered among the reds. Multiple origins of green blood in New Guinea lizards . R. Zhao et al. A study on eggshell pigmentation: biliverdin in blue-shelled chickens . Poultry Science . The Associated Press. Biliverdin is present in humans, but only in small amounts, and is responsible for the greenish hue we sometimes see around bruises. A new treatment option, if developed, could wind up being safer and more effective.
These skinks have been lumped into one genus just because of blood color, says biologist Christopher Austin of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The most probable explanation is that green blood, though rare, evolved independently multiple times, he says. Science Advances . March 2006, p. All Rights Reserved. Going forward, the scientists will attempt to finally answer the “why,” and they’re going to start by examining how the blood reacts to various parasites common in the area.
She has written for The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site covering autism research. Yet they don’t all turn out to be close relatives. The team is now working out the full sequences of lizards’ DNA building blocks and hoping to spot clearer evolutionary clues, such as particular mutations that helped red turn green. Austin and K.W. N Street, N.W. , Washington, D.C. Breaking up with Facebook?
Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Green blood looks as if it arose four separate times in the island’s lizards, he and colleagues propose May 16 in Science Advances . He hopes this research eventually will yield insights into human bile disorders. Jessing. Green-blood pigmentation in lizards . Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018.
Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. These lizards do have crimson red blood cells, but that color is overwhelmed by extreme buildups of a green pigment called biliverdin at levels that could kill other animals. Four origins This new family tree suggests the coloring may have arisen four times independently among some members of the skink family of lizards in New Guinea.
When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee. Biliverdin forms as the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin molecules break down in dead red blood cells. Each tip at the wide end of the diagram represents a different modern species in New Guinea, Australia or surrounding islands. November 1994, p. The New Guinea lizards' blood -- along with their tongues, muscles and bones -- appear green because of incredibly large doses of a green bile pigment.
But that isn’t the case for all backboned critters: A group of skinks that live in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have blood that is lime green. The researchers also considered that the green might give the lizards extra camouflage. It even appears to offer the lizards an advantage. Another green skink ( Prasinohaema virens ) that has green blood and lives in the lowlands of New Guinea. By clicking "Sign me up" you are subscribing to the LiveScience Newsletter and agreeing to our Terms of Service .