The ability to regrow their tails has been a documented and life-saving skill of small reptiles like lizards and geckos. Now, researchers say they have details of larger reptiles, alligators, regrowing their tail.
A team of scientists from Arizona State University and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries were surprised to discover the alligators have the ability to regrow their tails up to 9 inches. Their report was recently published in Scientific Reports.
“Overall, this study of wild-caught, juvenile American alligator tails identifies a distinct pattern of wound repair in mammals while exhibiting features in common with regeneration in lepidosaurs and amphibia,” the researchers concluded.
The wild-caught alligators most likely lost their tails by traumatic injury, the scientists stated. The team also had samples of regrown tails from alligators who had died.
"The regrown skeleton was surrounded by connective tissue and skin but lacked any skeletal muscle (which lizard tails do regenerate with)," Kenro Kusumi, co-senior study author and professor and director of ASU's School of Life Sciences and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, told CNN.
Even without muscles, a regrown tail is important for alligators’ survival.
The team hopes their research will help scientists working on regenerative therapies in humans. Although humans are incapable of regrowing a limb, researchers said we have the same cells and pathways that alligators and other animals use for regeneration.