Lizards Have Been Caught Using Bubbles To Breathe Underwater

Although it has been well documented that some insects and invertebrates can breathe underwater using bubbles, a recent discovery has been made where a small lizard has been seen doing the same.

Oxygen-filled bubbles

The recent discovery involving six species of Latin American and Caribbean lizards, also known as anoles, has found that they have the capability of blowing a bubble that will cling to lizards’ water-repelling scales and allow them to breathe underwater for extended periods of time. This is the first time this has been seen, even though it has been observed in some other species of insects and invertebrates. They appear to use the bubble as a way of exhaling air and breathing it back in. Scientists wanted to test the theory, and have found some are capable of staying underwater for around 15 minutes.

It is similar to a rebreathing device

Lizards using bubbles to breathe underwater have been described as being similar to a rebreathing device used by scuba divers. Also referred to as a rebreather, the device allows the diver to recycle exhaled air, and inhale to breathe in the unused oxygen in it. One scientist not involved in the study thinks that they do this to rid themselves of the carbon dioxide in their lungs as it might escape through the surface of the bubble. It could be used, in well-oxygenated streams, as a physical gill that pulls gas from the water.

It has been seen before in some insects

This isn’t something new, but it has only recently been discovered in these lizards. Some arachnids, like diving bell spiders, as well as some insects like beetles, have been observed using air bubbles underwater to breathe. The difference between these insects and the lizards is that they are far smaller. This means they can last underwater indefinitely as they have larger air bubbles over the surface of their bodies and they need less oxygen than the lizards.

To avoid danger and to hunt for food

Scientists that studied the lizards believe that they are capable of doing this to help them avoid danger from predators and to hunt underwater for small fish and other food. Some of the 400 species living throughout the tropics are semi-aquatic and will protect themselves from predators, like snakes, by diving into streams. They tend to sleep on the end of branches, allowing them to dive for cover when needed. The scientists observed their breathing bubbles by placing the anoles into containers of water. On measuring the oxygen levels in the bubbles, they found it decreased over time which would indicate that they are breathing in the oxygen.

This finding came as a surprise to scientists. They explain that it was something they never imagined would be a possibility and even though these anoles are well known for exhibiting convergent evolution,. This was something scientifically rigorous due to the careful measurements needed, but also strangely interesting. Even though it is unknown the extent of the lizards’ underwater abilities, it is something that will be researched further.