Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Tegu Lizard Becomes a Genetic Resource

Most reptiles, unlike mammals, are unable to control their body temperature. They have to rely on things in their environment like the sun and shade to help achieve their optimal body temperature. The tegu lizard, also known as Salvator merianae, has been discovered to be able to raise its own body temperature 10 degrees celsius above its surroundings; putting it closer to becoming a warm- blooded animal. They are native to South America, but the international trade in exotic pets has been the main reason that the species has entered into new environments. The tegu is seen to have very unique biological characteristics and a high- quality genome sequence. This in turn will serve as a great resource for identifying the prospective cause and molecular basis of these aspects. 

A team of researchers led by Michael Hiller at Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, determined and assembled the tegu genome sequence. It was more than 2 billion DNA letters long and contains more than 22,000 genes. It is stated so far as the most complete assembly of any reptile genome. They used something called "long read" sequencing technology in order to meet the challenges of assembling the reptile genome. The complete sequence of the tegu is assisting in other research such as limb loss in snakes. Researchers proposed that since snakes derived from reptile ancestors with limbs, they needed a well- assembled genome as a reference. Researchers also compared the tegu with 16 other species to better understand different morphological features and how they evolved. This one lizard has paved a way for so many findings and discoveries. I believe that learning the genomic sequence of the tegu lizard is really going to open doors on reptile research and evolution, which is something we know little about.


  1. It is really interesting to see that a reptile is able to raise its own body temperature as much as 10 degrees celsius when it is a cold-blooded animal. This is the first I have ever heard of anything life this. I wonder if this is something they have always been able to do or if it is an adaptation to the colder environments it has been introduced to. There is so much more to be understood about evolution and the tegu lizard research is a step closer to even more discoveries. It would be cool to look at the genes involved in the heating of the body and compare them to closely related species to observe variants.

  2. I'm surprised that genetics are doing research on tegus. I wonder if this research can help wildlife conservation managers develop a plan to combat their destructive impact on Florida's ecosystems. Maybe by revealing their advantageous genes, scientists can determine an approach to deter these genes from passing on from one generation to the next.

  3. Its very cool to see evolution like this in action. A previously cold blooded lizard like this being able to atlter is body temperature could not only help the species thrive but this could even give us an insight into how body temperature regulation works. The illegal pet trade caused this change which means we could possibly look and see how it happened in such a short period of time. I look forward to learning more about this research and possibly being a part of it someday. It would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between their body temperature regulation and ours.