Alligators can regrow their tails, according to a new study.
Researchers have discovered that the reptiles, which date back to dinosaur days and can grow 14 feet long or more, can regenerate themselves — not unlike geckos, or the tuatara of New Zealand.
The team from Arizona State University and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries discovered that young alligators have the ability to regrow their tails up to three-quarters of a foot, or 18% of their total body length, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
The interdisciplinary team used advanced imaging technology to explore whether alligators share any of the same regenerative capabilities as much smaller reptiles, they said. They discovered the answer was yes, though with limits.
Only young alligators can do it. and unlike amphibians, the alligators can’t cut off their own appendages when threatened. The regenerative property also differs from the original tail’s structure and from other animals’ regeneration methods.
“The regrown skeleton was surrounded by connective tissue and skin but lacked any skeletal muscle,” said Kenro Kusumi, co-senior study author and professor and director of ASU’s School of Life Sciences, and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“What makes the alligator interesting, apart from its size, is that the regrown tail exhibits signs of both regeneration and wound healing within the same structure,” said study lead author Cindy Xu.