Boosting Lizard Immunity Against Warmer Weather with Gut Health

Greg Howard
24th February, 2024

Boosting Lizard Immunity Against Warmer Weather with Gut Health

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Climate change is a pressing global issue, and its impact on biodiversity is a growing concern. One area of interest is how rising temperatures affect the physiology of animals, particularly ectotherms—creatures whose body temperature is largely determined by their environment. Recent research by the Chinese Academy of Sciences[1] has shed new light on this subject, revealing that the gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms living in the digestive tracts of animals, may play a crucial role in helping desert lizards adapt to warmer climates. Previous studies have indicated that climate change can alter the gut microbiota in animals, potentially affecting their health and fitness[2]. For instance, research on the slender anole lizard suggested that while short-term heat waves might not significantly impact gut microbiota, longer-term climate anomalies like droughts could have broader regional effects[3]. Moreover, soil warming experiments in tropical forests have shown that increased temperatures can drastically change soil microbial communities, which has implications for both biodiversity and climate[4]. Building on these findings, the study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted longitudinal experiments to observe how gut microbiota in the desert lizard Eremias multiocellata responded to long-term warming. Initially, at the two-month mark, a decrease in microbial diversity was noted. However, as the study progressed to 13 and 27 months, an unexpected increase in diversity was observed. This increase was accompanied by a significant enhancement in the lizards' immune responses, including greater antibacterial activity in their serum and higher expression of immune-related genes in their intestines. The researchers also discovered that the lizards had higher concentrations of short-chain fatty acids, which are known to strengthen the intestinal barrier and bolster immunity. To further understand the relationship between gut microbiota and the host's immune system, fecal microbiota transplant experiments were conducted. These experiments confirmed that a more diverse gut microbiota was indeed linked to stronger antibacterial activity and immune responses in the lizards. A particularly interesting finding was the role of the genus Bacteroides. Lizards in warmer conditions had a higher relative abundance of Bacteroides, which appeared to regulate the expression of IFN-β, a molecule involved in the immune response. This suggests that specific microbial groups within the gut microbiota could be key players in enhancing the host's ability to cope with climate-induced stress. The study's conclusions are significant because they highlight the adaptive potential of gut microbiota in response to long-term environmental changes. While earlier research has often focused on the immediate effects of temperature increases, this study emphasizes the importance of considering the long-term dynamics of host-microbial interactions. It suggests that, over time, ectotherms like the desert lizard may be able to adjust to rising temperatures through changes in their gut microbiota that enhance their immune systems. This research is a step forward in understanding the complex ways in which climate change can affect living organisms. It also underscores the need for long-term studies to fully grasp the biological impacts of our changing environment. As we continue to witness the effects of global warming, studies like this one provide valuable insights into the resilience of life on Earth and the intricate relationships between hosts and their microbial partners.



Main Study

1) Gut microbiota modulation enhances the immune capacity of lizards under climate warming.

Published 22nd February, 2024

Related Studies

2) Climate change is not just global warming: Multidimensional impacts on animal gut microbiota.

3) Sustained Drought, but Not Short-Term Warming, Alters the Gut Microbiomes of Wild Anolis Lizards.

4) Microbial diversity declines in warmed tropical soil and respiration rise exceed predictions as communities adapt.

Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙