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Lizards flash colors people can't see.

People flirt with smiles and warn off rivals with sneers. Likewise, lizards such as this Anolis cristatellus (bottom, right) gesture, unfolding a throat fan - called a dewlap - to communicate.

But dewlaps can send signals that humans cannot see, says Leo J. Fleishman, a physiologist at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Images from an ultraviolet video camera (top, right) reveal a brilliant dewlap in Anolis pulchellus that contrasts sharply with the surrounding vegetation, which tends to absorb light at those wavelengths, Fleishman and his colleagues report in the Sept. 30 NATURE. In normal light, the dewlap is less flashy (top, left).

Fleishman and Ellis R. Loew of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., stumbled onto special photoreceptors tuned to oUV wavelengths while studying the eyes of these lizards for other reasons. They now know that many other lizards and a few snakes also possess these photoreceptors, says Loew.

Among the five anole lizards they investigated, the three that live in open, sunny areas had dewlaps that reflected UV light. The dewlaps of the other two, which live near the shaded forest floor, did not, says Fleishman.
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Title Annotation:lizards can reflect ultraviolet light
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Oct 9, 1993
Words:186
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