February 25, 2021

Lizards that can do more than grow a tail back

Lizards are amazing creatures. They can change color to blend in with backgrounds so that they are not spotted by predators. If they are ever captured they have the incredible ability to detach a tail so that they can escape. When you consider how eager we are to find strange life forms outside of Earth, spare a thought for just how strange lifeforms are here on Earth already, that’s without even mentioning the strangest of all, Donald Trump. Scientists have now discovered that lizards have another strange ability, something that makes them even more special.

Scientists have now discovered a large number of lizards that have more than one tail. It appears that a small percentage of lizards have the incredible ability to grow back more than one tail when one disappears. When lizards are under stress or in danger they can separate their tail and flee the scene. If a predator is holding them by the tail they will be left with the tail alone. It is a useful tactic when you consider how small a lizard’s body is compared to its long tail. 

Over the next few months, the cartilage will grow back and a new tail will form. This is an amazing talent as cartilage is incredibly difficult to grow. Scientists are incredibly interested in this ability because although humans have the ability to regrow cartilage, it is very hard to do and often makes injuries quite prolonged. If they could learn anything from lizards it could transform injury recovery in the future. 

This new discovery is just showing off though. Now it appears that lizards can not only grow back limbs that they have severed but they can grow back extra ones as well. Scientists estimate that about 3% of lizards have the ability to grow back more than one tail at a time. They have found some incredible cases where lizards have a tail that appears to be split into two or other cases where a lizard had six tails. There are many cases where the new tail acts as the trunk of a tree and new branches of tails start to offshoot. 

Scientists have yet to discover what makes some lizards be able to regrow one tail, others two, and some six. However, the findings are clearly important. If scientists can learn what chemical difference or biological anomaly is occurring then perhaps they can apply the difference between a one tail lizard and a two-tail lizard and embed it in human biology. This strange supplement could help the regrowth of injured limbs and who knows in the future, perhaps we too will be able to grow back entire arms or legs. 

The future is dominated by technology and while technology is paving an exciting path into the future there are other sciences that will still cause a lot to change too. Biology has a lot that it can still learn from plants and animals and there are answers to many of the toughest questions in life hidden in the cells and DNA of the living organisms around us. While humans don’t desire to grow back tails (although it would be nice to use our tailbones for something) regenerative biology is a science that is only starting to be understood. 

If we can heal cells and return them to their previous glory, regrowing limbs is only one of many possible benefits. Cancer is basically the damage of cell particles and if we could copy some traits from the lizard we may be able to reverse the cancerous cells that have taken hold in a body.