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Scuba-diving lizards

By , 21 October 2021

Lizard underwater with a bubble on its head

This anole is carrying its own underwater air supply
Credit: Lindsey Swierk

By Cordelia Jerjen

Aquatic bugs use bubbles to breathe underwater. But this natural mechanism for underwater breathing has never been thought possible in vertebrates (animals with a backbone). In a first-of-its kind discovery, scientists have found that anoles – a type of semi-aquatic lizard – share this trick.

Anoles are found throughout the tropical Americas. Being slow-moving creatures, they frequently escape danger by diving into water.

According to a new study, these lizards evolved to exhale air into a giant bubble that clings to their snouts, which they then re-inhale. The researchers believe that the reptile’s hydrophobic (water-hating) skin plays a key role in being able to form such bubbles.

Six species of anoles are now known to blow these bubbles. The technique, which resembles an oxygen tank used by a scuba diver, allows the lizards to stay underwater for up to 18 minutes!

This article first appeared in Double Helix magazine. If you’re after more science news for kids, subscribe to Double Helix today!

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