Lizards That Lose Their Tails


Not all lizards can shed their tail, but some have this unique adaptation as their tail is not necessary for survival. Some lizards can essentially release their own tail when caught by a predator. By sacrificing this non-essential body part, they preserve their essential parts and their life. Remarkably, lizards with the ability to lose their tail can also regrow a tail. However, tails cannot be regrown repeatedly because the renewed tails are made of cartilage and don't have a release mechanism.


Iguanas are large lizards, 3 to 7 feet (.9 to 2m) long. Their tail makes up a little more than half their body length. In spite of their large size, iguanas are popular pet lizards. In the wild, iguanas live in rain forests. Green iguanas, for example, live in jungle canopies in the tops of trees. Like all lizards, they are cold-blooded, meaning they do not posses the ability to regulate their own body heat. Iguanas are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal.


Chameleons are best known for their ability to change color, adapting to the color of their environment to hide from predators. It is so notable, the term "chameleon" has become synonymous with a person who quickly changes to reflect his environment. Chameleons also have the ability to lose their tails.


Geckos make good pet lizards. They're small and easy to care for. Though many types of geckos lose their tails, not all do. Geckos that do lose their tail, such as the leopard gecko, often demonstrate one of tail loss' more interesting features. After the tail is dropped, it wiggles. It seems this has evolved not to physically escape from a predator, but to distract a pursuing predator. The tail drops and the movement draws the predator to the tail, not the lizard.

Western Fence Lizard

The western fence lizard is common to arid parts of the west, from central and eastern Oregon down to Baja, Mexico. Though they are more common in dry parts of the west, they are more apt to be found in the high desert and avoid the harshest climates. Also called "blue-belly," this small lizard is easily spotted in its habitat. They are common prey for raptors and small mammals and readily lose their tails when caught or chased.

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