Brain Parasites Found in Baby Lizards
Sat, April 10, 2021

Brain Parasites Found in Baby Lizards

 

Nathalie Feiner, an evolutionary biologist at Lund University in Sweden, and her colleagues have been routinely dissecting and examining developing lizard embryos. Most of these were found to be worm-free. However, the team found that one population of common wall lizards in the Pyrenees mountain range are riddled with a newfound species of a parasitic worm, so much so that even baby lizards are affected. 

 

Photo Credits: Live Science

 

The findings published in the journal The American Naturalist came as a surprise since it has long been established that animals like lizards are less vulnerable to certain routes of parasitic transmission. "I was shocked when I saw something moving in the embryo's brain, despite having dissected many lizard eggs before," Feiner said in a statement. The good news is that the animals appear healthy when first hatched, noting that "infected lizard embryos develop normally and hatch with nematodes residing in their braincase."

Typically, nematodes invade the intestines of common wall lizards, which makes them wonder how the worms reached the baby lizards’ brains. Thus, the researchers examined the lizard mothers to know where the worms came from.

 

Photo Credits: Live Science

 

According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture and history, the findings showed that the worms sneak in through the lizard mothers' ovaries and infiltrate the embryos of the developing lizards. After that, they enter their brains before a hard eggshell forms around the animal. The researchers hypothesized that this newfound species adapted to thrive in the reproductive system of females.

 

Photo Credits: Live Science

 

"It would be exciting to know if this vertical transmission [between mother and embryo] is unique to the nematodes we found in the common wall lizards or if this occurs in other species, as well. It would also be interesting to find out if the lizard’s behavior is affected by having worms in their brains,” Feiner said. 

 

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