Why and How Do Lizards Regenerate Their Tails?
Have you ever seen a gecko without a tail and wondered why? Lizards and other reptiles can lose their tail at-will and have the ability to regenerate missing tail portions or grow altogether 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 of Reptile Tail Regeneration?
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. By providing a convincing scapegoat to distract the predator, the lizard may be able to escape the situation (relatively) unharmed.
As the lizard quickly scurries away, the predator may shift its attention toward the detached tail, which, although wriggling, remains in the same place.
Lizards have evolved to be able to detach their tails at-will. Unfortunately, sometimes they do not fully separate. In these cases, the lizard must live with a partially detached tail while the cells around it begin to regenerate.
Geckos Growing Back Their TailsClick thumbnail to view full-size
How Do Tails 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 its nub in warm water during the day and frequently 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.
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, it regenerates 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)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.