Interactions between Biliverdin, Oxidative Damage, and Spleen Morphology after Simulated Aggressive Encounters in Veiled Chameleons
Stressors frequently increase oxidative damage–unless organisms simultaneously mount effective antioxidant responses. One putative mitigative mechanism is the use of biliverdin, an antioxidant produced in the spleen during erythrocyte degradation. We hypothesized that both wild and captive-bred male veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus), which are highly aggressive to conspecifics, would respond to agonistic displays with increased levels of oxidative damage, but that increased levels of biliverdin would limit this increase. We found that even just visual exposure to a potential combatant resulted in decreased body mass during the subsequent 48-hour period, but that hematocrit, biliverdin concentration in the bile, relative spleen size, and oxidative damage in plasma, liver, and spleen were unaffected. Contrary to our predictions, we found that individuals with smaller spleens exhibited greater decreases in hematocrit and higher bile biliverdin concentrations, suggesting a revision to the idea of spleen-dependent erythrocyte processing. Interestingly, individuals with larger spleens had reduced oxidative damage in both the liver and spleen, demonstrating the spleen’s importance in modulating oxidative damage. We also uncovered differences in spleen size and oxidative damage between wild and captive-bred chameleons, highlighting environmentally dependent differences in oxidative physiology. Lastly, we found no relationship between oxidative damage and biliverdin concentration, calling into question biliverdin’s antioxidant role in this species.