Lizard tails detach at a biological 'dotted line'

December 19, 2012
Wedge-shaped extensions (cranial margins of individual tail muscles) projecting from the proximal end of the released tail stump demonstrate the presence of ‘‘mushroom-shaped’’ structures at the termini of the muscle fibers after autotomy. These structures are present on all sides of the extensions except on the outer part. Credit: Sanggaard KW, Danielsen CC, Wogensen L, Vinding MS, Rydtoft LM, et al. (2012) Unique Structural Features Facilitate Lizard Tail Autotomy. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51803. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051803

Like sheets of paper marked with perforated lines, gecko tails have unique structural marks that help them sever their tails to make a quick getaway. Though voluntarily shedding a body part in this manner is a well-known phenomenon, research published December 19 in the open access journal PLOS ONE reveals aspects of the process that may have applications for structural engineers making similar, quickly detachable structures.

Jan Enghild and colleagues from Aarhus University, Denmark, used advanced bio-imaging techniques to discover that a Tokay gecko sheds its tail along pre-formed "score lines" in specific regions of the tail, which is held together by at these lines.

The video will load shortly
Bridging structures are not present between tail segments. Credit: Sanggaard KW, Danielsen CC, Wogensen L, Vinding MS, Rydtoft LM, et al. (2012) Unique Structural Features Facilitate Lizard Tail Autotomy. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51803. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051803

The process of separation is independent of protein-cleaving enzymes, and microstructures at the ends of are most likely involved in the release of the tail. Enghild adds, "Our work has been driven by a curiosity to understand how tail autotomy is facilitated among lizards.

In the present work we use a combination of advanced protein- and high-resolution imaging- techniques to address the mechanism involved in the process."

The video will load shortly
The muscle fibers in successive tail segments display an interdigitated structure. Credit: Sanggaard KW, Danielsen CC, Wogensen L, Vinding MS, Rydtoft LM, et al. (2012) Unique Structural Features Facilitate Lizard Tail Autotomy. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51803. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051803

Explore further: Falling lizards use tail for mid-air twist, inspiring lizard-like 'RightingBot'

More information: Sanggaard KW, Danielsen CC, Wogensen L, Vinding MS, Rydtoft LM, et al. (2012) Unique Structural Features Facilitate Lizard Tail Autotomy. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51803. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051803

Related Stories

Japan snail sheds tail to escape, scientist finds

October 3, 2012

Snails that can shed their tails to escape much faster-moving predators and then regrow the amputated body section have been discovered living in sub-tropical Japan, a study said Wednesday.

Detached gecko tails dance to their own tune

September 9, 2009

Geckos and other lizards have long been known for their incredible ability to shed their tails as a decoy for predators, but little is known about the movements and what controls the tail once it separates from the lizard's ...

Recommended for you

Major advance in the understanding of the transport of RNA

January 17, 2017

Messenger RNAs bearing the genetic information for the synthesis of proteins are delivered to defined sites in the cell cytoplasm by molecular motors. LMU researchers have elucidated how the motors recognize their mRNA freight.

Ants need work-life balance, research suggests

January 16, 2017

As humans, we constantly strive for a good work-life balance. New findings by researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology suggest that ants, long perceived as the workaholics of the insect world, do the same.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.