Ask Us: How do lizards survive when they lose their tail?

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Most skinks and some of the dragon species can drop their tail quickly to avoid being captured by a predator.

When damage occurs, the lizard’s tail breaks at a fracture plane in one of its tail bones, causing small muscle rings to immediately constrict the blood vessels around the break. Taronga Zoo’s Herpetofauna Manager, Peter Harlow, says not all families of these species can drop their tails.

In those that can, “nerves, blood vessels and even the skin easily separate from the body when the tail is lost,” he says. “They have evolved physiological mechanisms for rapidly closing off blood vessels. Very little blood is lost when the tail is dropped.” This prevents the lizard from bleeding to death.

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