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'Score Lines' Allow Geckos to Shed Tails Easily, Experts Reveal

Dec 24, 2012 05:06 AM EST

A gecko's tail has score lines that allows it to shed its tail and evade a predator attack, finds a new study.

A team of researchers studied the tail structure of Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) to understand how it sheds its tail in a bid to escape from predators.

Until now, several studies on tail shedding lizards have been done. But it has remained a mystery as to how geckos rip off their tails.

For their study, researchers used high resolution imaging techniques to examine the lizard's tail structure. They also observed the appendage shedding in euthanized geckos, reports LiveScience.

They found that the lizards have pre-formed "score lines" in different regions of the tail. They are held together by adhesive forces in these lines.

"The tail contains "score lines" at distinct horizontal fracture planes where the tail may be released as a response to predation. These scores penetrate all the way through the tissue where the structural integrity is maintained by adhesion forces," the authors wrote in the article.

Chemical analysis of the geckos showed that the protein-cleaving enzymes were not involved in tail shedding of the lizards.

Researchers noticed "mushroom-shaped" microstructures at the end of muscle fibers after a gecko voluntarily sheds its tail. They believe that these microstructures are most likely involved in the release of the tail.

The "mushroom-shaped" structures help in reducing adhesion between tail segments and allow the gecko to rip off its tail easily and quickly "without employing a slow protease-based degradation of connective tissue," the researchers wrote.

Geckos are also known to have anti-wetting property in their toes, which helps them to move in rainy conditions. Their adhesive forces help them to cling on to wet surfaces. This unique property of geckos is being studied by researchers to create synthetic adhesive material like bandages that stick when wet.

The findings of the study, "Unique Structural Features Facilitate Lizard Tail Autotomy", appear online in the journal PLOS ONE.

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