Flips, Flops And Cartwheels: Gecko Tail Has A Mind Of Its Own, Scientists Discover

ScienceDaily (Sep. 9, 2009) — Geckos and other lizards have long been known for their incredible ability to shed their tails as a decoy for predators, but little is known about the movements and what controls the tail once it separates from the lizard's body.

Anthony Russell of the University of Calgary and Tim Higham of Clemson University in South Carolina are closer to solving this mystery as outlined in a paper they co-authored published in the journal Biology Letters.

The scientists demonstrate that tails exhibit not only rhythmic but also complex movements, including flips, jumps and lunges, after the tails are shed. Although one previous study has looked at movement of the tail after it is severed, no study up to this point has quantified movement patterns of the tail by examining the relationship between such patterns and muscular activity.

The new findings are significant because Higham and Russell's discoveries indicate that the lizard tail can provide a model for studying the complex functions of the spinal cord and the effects of spinal cord injuries.