A new study has been conducted to understand how lizards could retain their tails, and yet drop them at any time to escape the clutches of potential predators.
The study discovered that it is actually tiny mushroom-like structures located in their tails that give lizards this rather impressive ability. The researchers believe that this discovery could find its application in future technological inventions.
For researchers, it is surprising to see that lizards can easily lose their tails when they are firmly attached to their bodies the rest of the time.
Observations made by scientists
To understand the separation process, the researchers took torn off lizard tails and observed them under a microscope. They scrupulously examined the fracture plane at the level of the tails. This allowed them to discover a dense layer of mushroom-shaped micro-pillars topped with a multitude of nanopores located where each muscle breaks.
Emulation models were used by scientists to help them understand how these structures could create such a strong attachment and yet break so easily when the time came. They discovered that these micro-pillars were very adhesive under tension. However, there is an event that can completely override this property.
The researchers also analyzed a lizard tail breaking scene recorded with a high-speed camera. They found that the break is triggered based on the bending of the tail itself. When the tail bends, a crack appears first on the bent side and after that the whole tail is torn off.
The “autotomy” defense mechanism
Autotomy is a self-amputating defense mechanism. In lizards, this ability to self-amputate the tail is essential for their survival. These animals indeed get rid of their tail to distract predators and be able to escape.
Autotomy is considered to be an effective means of survival in both plants and animals, as explained by Animangsu Ghatak, the author of the study. The researchers believe that this mechanism could also be used in scientific and technical applications, particularly in the fields of robotics, bio-printing, and skin grafting.