Lizard Behavior -
Tail Loss (Caudal Autotomy)
Many species of lizards release their tail when they want to escape from a predator. The tail then continues to wriggle like a living creature, which distracts the predator away from the lizard’s vulnerable body, allowing it to escape while the predator is left holding or trying to catch the expendable tail. That’s one strategy. A study of lizards in Greece concluded that the lizards there drop their tails when bitten on the tail by venomous snakes. That way the venom does not reach the lizard’s body. This tail dropping is called “Caudal Autotomy.” Losing the tail does not seriously harm the lizard, and may save its life, but the loss of a tail might have a negative effect on the lizard’s ability to run quickly, its attractiveness to the opposite sex, and its social standing. Dropped tails do grow back, but these regenerated tails are often not as long or as perfect as the original. It is not uncommon to find lizards in the wild with no tail or with a partially regenerated tail, so tail autotomy apparenty works. None of the detached tails seen below were broken off intentionally. All were either released by a lizard stressed by being captured or they were accidents of handling. These are examples of the harm that can be done to a lizard even from careful handling and serve as a warning to be careful when picking up a lizard.