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It is not just lizards and geckos, a new study now shows that young alligators also have the ability to regrow their tails. The study team from the U.S. speculates that this ability gives them a functional advantage in their murky habitats. Their findings were published in Scientific Reports.
Advanced imaging techniques were used to study the anatomy and tissue organisation. In a press release from Arizona State University, lead author Cindy Xu explains: “Regrowth of cartilage, blood vessels, nerves, and scales were consistent with previous studies of lizard tail regeneration… However, we were surprised to discover scar-like connective tissue in place of skeletal muscle in the regrown alligator tail. Future comparative studies will be important to understand why regenerative capacity is variable among different reptile and animal groups.”
Another author of the paper Kenro Kusumi said that evolution might also have had an important role in this “The ancestors of alligators and dinosaurs and birds split off around 250 million years ago… Our finding that alligators have retained the cellular machinery to regrow complex tails while birds have lost that ability raises the question of when during evolution this ability was lost.”
The team hopes that understanding how different animals repair and regenerate tissues can help in developing new therapies for treating injuries.