Many fabulous creatures have real prototypes – for example, there are lizards in the world that are very similar to dragons. No, they can not spit flames out of their mouths, but they have a frighteningly split tongue, strong muscles, natural thirst for blood and have been known to mankind for ages, called by the locals in honor of the fabulous monsters. It sounds really scary and cool, but these creatures recently surprised the scientists with another peculiarity: a thick armor was found under their skin to protect them from heavy knocks.
For the first time, the presence of a protective skin layer in monitor lizards in 1928 became known. Then, a naturalist named William Douglas Byrden mentioned in his notes that poachers started catching giant lizards to sell their skin, but it had no value. The fact is that under it is a layer of many small bones that protect the body of the monitor lizards from heavy bumps and bites and make the cutting of the skin difficult. Since then, natural lizard armor has been of little interest to scientists, but recently researchers from the State of Texas have decided to study it carefully.
The largest lizards are protected by a thick armor.
The skin of giant lizards is quite hard to come by, so scientists asked the local zoos for help. The body of a 19-year-old Monitor Lord, who died in 2013, was provided by a zoo in Fort Worth, Texas. The menagerie owners of San Antonio City handed over the body to a young lizard that had died a few days before the study began.
After a team of scientists made the bodies of "dragons" available, they examined them with a tomographic device. The adult monitor lizard was so large that only his head got into the apparatus, but this was enough to reveal interesting structural features of his body. Under his skin, the researchers actually found a layer of many hard bones that could protect him from head to tail.
How are crocodiles and other reptiles protected?
These tiny bones are known in scientific language as osteoderma or secondary skin ossification. They were among many extinct reptiles, as well as dinosaurs. Today, they are particularly well developed among crocodiles and play an important role in both the protection and regulation of body heat. But for what the lizards need, they need a protective layer of skin because these huge predators can not have enemies – they can catch any predator and tear it to pieces.
That's interesting: Can kites fly? And breathe fire?
Scientists are certain that the lizards need armor to protect themselves from their relatives. After examining the skin of a young monitor lizard, the researchers found that he had no subcutaneous armor. As a result, it does not develop until adulthood, when giant lizards begin to argue each other for territory. To be honest, it sounds rather boring – it would be better if the armor were protected from the fabulous knights who came to rescue the princess from the prison in the "Dragon Tower".
Cool, right? Are we looking for interesting videos with monitor lizards and discussing them in our telegram chat?
Jokes are jokes, but monitor lizards are really amazing creatures. In addition to their strength, their thirst for blood and their safety, they are also interested in the composition of their blood. A 2017 study has proven that it contains substances that can be used to make a new antibiotic. Read more in our material.