Watch: Diving lizard creates its own oxygen pockets

The water anole can breathe underwater for long periods of time using a recycled air bubble that clings to its head. ©Lindsey Swierk

Lizards in Costa Rica may have evolved a technique to recycle their own air using bubbles that form on their heads as they hide from predators underwater. According to new research, the water anole (Anolis aquaticus), found around mountain streams in the Central American country, aren’t particularly quick when it comes to escaping predators. But what they lack in speed they make up for in other abilities.

These lizards often dive into nearby water sources in response to threats and stay submerged until danger passes, said Lindsey Swierk, an assistant research professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University in New York and an author of a study published recently in Herpetological Review.

For the first time, Swierk documented has how the lizards manage to stay underwater for as long as 16 minutes. They exhale air bubbles that stick to the top of their heads before re-inhaling the air — essentially recycling it. She believes the animals have evolved morphological traits on their heads and necks to help them get rid of carbon dioxide and reuse oxygen.