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How Do Lizards Regenerate Their Tails?

Updated on September 13, 2017
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Brittany has lived on the Big Island of Hawaii for most of her life and enjoys writing meaningful content that will be helpful to others.

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Have you ever seen a gecko without a tail and wondered why? Lizards and other amphibians can lose their tail at-will and have the ability to regenerate and grow new ones. But why do lizards lose their tails in the first place and how are they able to grow back? We will explore the reasons behind this method of self-defense and also watch the creation of a new limb.

What Is the Benefit?

Much like octopi and starfish, lizards have evolved over time in order to use their limb regeneration for self-defense. When attacked by a predator, lizards sometimes detach their tail to distract a predator. After the tail falls off, it will continue to wiggle. If the lizard is lucky, the predator will not be able to differentiate between the lizard and its wiggling tail.

Since the lizard quickly scurries away, the predator is more likely going to move their attention toward the tail, which is staying in one place, yet appears to be alive.

Lizards have evolved to be able to detach their tails at-will, yet, they sometimes do not fully separate. Sometimes, the lizards are not so lucky, and they must live with a partially detached tail while the cells around it begin to regenerate.

Geckos Growing Back Their Tails

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How Do They Regenerate?

Like many animals that can regenerate their limbs, geckos and lizards can easily detach their tails because their blood cells, bones, nerve cells, and skin can be separated at any place along the limb.

The lizard can always regrow a tail, but they are not in good health after losing it.

Lizards store fat and nutrients in the tail. When they detach their tails, they use up critical energy that must be used to find more food to replace the nutrients it lost. Not only does losing a tail cause the gecko to use a significant amount of energy, but growing back the tail takes almost twice that amount of energy.

How You Can Help

If your pet lizard has lost its tail, you should soak it in warm water during the day and constantly clean it out. Betadine is also a good way to clean the wound of a lizard's lost tail. After one week of soaking the lizard, you may take the lizard out. At night, put triple antibiotic oil on the wound to ensure proper healing.

If your lizard's stump begins to swell-up, you will need to take them to an experienced reptile veterinarian.

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How Long Will It Take to Regenerate?

As mentioned before, lizards have the ability to regenerate their tails. It takes about nine weeks for a lizard to grow their tail back. Within the first three weeks, the lizard's tail is a dark stump of lymph vessels.

When the tails grow back, they regenerate from the inside-out. After six weeks, the whole shape of the tail has been regenerated. After the tail has been growing back for six weeks, the lizard's skin begins to form over the lymph vessels.

Watch the video below to see it in action!

A Lizard's Tail Growing Back (Sped Up)

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    • profile image

      Artur Mijimiro 4 years ago

      this article was extremely helpful, thank you very much

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      Brittany Kennedy 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      Obljimi, a lizard has a very different biology than a human. Lizards can regenerate body parts that do not have any vital organs in them--only lymph vessels and skin. Human's cannot regenerate and do not have the same biological composition. I hope this helps.

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      Obijimi timileyin 5 years ago

      What do lizard possess that human don't have or human also regenerates

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      Brittany Kennedy 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      Thank you everyone for your comments! I saw the question and thought, "Oo! I know this one!" Haha. I'm glad you all enjoyed it. Thanks again!

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      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      I've always been fascinated by the ability of a Lizard to grow its tail back, it's a concept so alien to us humans, and indeed all mammals. You've written a really good article here. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Brittany,

      Thanks for publishing this very interesting article. I knew that a lizard could regenerate a tail, but that's all I knew about the subject. I learned a lot from reading your Hub.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      That is fascinating. I knew that if a lizard's tail was accidentally cut off, perhaps run over by a human, that it could regenerate it, but I didn't know that they could lose their tail at their own will. They are such adaptive creatures.

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      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I had no idea why or how the lizard lost it's tail! I've witnessed this so many times and never thought about researching! I always thought I was the one who detached it's tail! I feel so much better now. I was also fascinated at how the tail would keep wiggling. Lizards are slick plus they move fast! My dog likes to attack them. I feel bad for them. I'm taking a break from yard work right now. When I go back outside I'm going to say "atta boy" to every lizard I see. BTW...I'm not a fanof lizards, but I am a fan of this hub!

    • sam209 profile image

      sam209 5 years ago

      This is the first hub I've read today and I must say that it's very interesting! I'm usually watching Animal Planet in order to get good information like this! Nice piece! Thanks for educating me today!

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      Brittany Kennedy 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      Thank you so much, Kris!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      Very cool hub! Regeneration of a fascinating event and so very few animals have the ability to do it.