Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

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

Date:
September 9, 2009
Source:
University of Calgary
Summary:
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. Researchers are closer to solving this mystery in a newly published study.

Green gecko. New research shows that the tails of geckos and other lizards exhibit not only rhythmic but also complex movements, including flips, jumps and lunges, after the tails are shed.
Credit: iStockphoto/Fedor Selivanov

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.

"Much is known about the ecological ramifications of tail loss, such as distracting predators, storing energy reserves and establishing social status but little is known about the pattern and control of movement of automized gecko tails," says Russell a biological sciences professor at the U of C. "What we've discovered is that the tail does not simply oscillate in a repetitive fashion, but has an intricate repertoire of varied and highly complex movements, including acrobatic flips up to three centimetres in height."

Higham, a former U of C student and now an assistant professor of biological sciences at Clemson, says more study needs to be done.

"An intriguing, and as yet unanswered, question is what is the source of the stimulus is that initiates complex movements in the shed tails of leopard geckos," says Higham. "The most plausible explanation is that the tail relies on sensory feedback from the environment. Sensors on its surface may tell it to jump, pivot or travel in a certain direction."

The ability of an animal, or part of an animal, to move without the active control of higher centres in the brain is well known, but this generally occurs as a result of traumatic physical injury. Tails of lizards are shed under the animal's own control. Because of this, the behaviour of the shed part has adaptive evolutionary importance and its actions are programmed to assist in the owner's survival. The movements are coordinated by the part of the spinal cord that is housed in the tail. The isolated tail serves as a vehicle for studying the ways that nerves and muscles act together to generate controlled but complex outputs in the absence of the influence of the brain.

"The automized gecko tail may be an excellent model for understanding the spontaneous activity that is sometimes observed following partial or complete spinal cord injury," says Russell.

The new study shows that the signals responsible for movements of the shed tail begin at the very far end of the tail, indicating that there is a control centre located there that is likely overridden by higher centres until the tail is shed, at which point its potential is realized.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Calgary. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Calgary. "Flips, Flops And Cartwheels: Gecko Tail Has A Mind Of Its Own, Scientists Discover." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090908203431.htm>.
University of Calgary. (2009, September 9). Flips, Flops And Cartwheels: Gecko Tail Has A Mind Of Its Own, Scientists Discover. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090908203431.htm
University of Calgary. "Flips, Flops And Cartwheels: Gecko Tail Has A Mind Of Its Own, Scientists Discover." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090908203431.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Dairy farmers and ethnic groups in Vermont are both benefiting from a unique collaborative effort that's feeding a growing need for fresh and affordable goat meat. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins