Tuesday, December 19, 2006


At first glance, this fat little fence lizard seems okay, but if you look a little closer, he's experiencing a temporary tail shortage.

When he scurried a little higher on to the treated power pole, his "shortage" became more apparent.

The lizard will grow the missing section back of course. Regeneration is an amazing ability that drops off as a species becomes more complex.

I suppose the champion regenerator is the sponge which can be put through a blender until broken into tiny clumps of cells. Afterwards, those surviving cells will actually clump back up into a "new" sponge. My favorite cartoon, SpongeBob Squarepants often has him regenerating and I always wonder of the kids watching think that's just a cartoon thing, or do they realize sponges REALLY do that.

Starfish are good at it too. Even a single arm of the starfish can grow a new individual as long as the arm contains some of the central disc area. Pretty cool. There's an oft repeated tale of oystermen in the Delmarva area "killing" the hated oyster sucking starfish that came up in their oyster hauls by chopping them up and tossing the remains overboard.
It turns out that is a really bad plan when you are trying to reduce the number of starfish ...

Higher critters like us are not very good at "big part" regeneration, but we can patch up ourselves pretty well. We are just too complicated (women, especially so :) for total regeneration from a simple piece.

A lizard's tail is a relatively simple structure and regeneration of it happens relatively quickly. He would not be able to regenerate other more complicated parts however.

For this lizard, choosing green power poles rather than oak trees may have contributed to his loss of tail. You can't ignore an oak bark camo pattern perfected over millions of years and expect to go unscathed.

I explained that to him and he zipped over to a nearby live oak and disappeared.
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Laura said...

I'll never forget the look on Samantha's face when she was very young and caught her first lizard... by the tail. LOL!

Next thing you know, she's holding the tail and he's scampering away, and all the while a look of shock on her face as she thought she had "broken" the lizard. Great moments in parenting!

And uh.."We are just too complicated (women, especially so :)..."


swamp4me said...

My favorite lizard...fence lizards have such personality, regardless of tail length!

pissed off patricia said...

I believe that lizard's became able to grow new tails about the time that cat's appeared on earth. ;)

robin andrea said...

If congress would just pass stem cell research, we'd be well on our way to challenging the regenerative properties of sponges, lizards, and starfish. From a single cell, new body parts. Maybe if science gets really good at this, women's bodies would no longer be captive to the reproductive imperative of the species, and we could stop being so complicated!

Anonymous said...

You're reading my mind again! I'd blog more often if you'd stop doing that... posting the same great idea I had before I could get around to it. LOL! Of course, I could always stop procrastinating... well, maybe later. ;]

Prickly pears, as I'm sure you already know, have that starfish quality, as well. Careful when you're mowing or you could end up with a nice PP patch where you least expect (or want) it. Tuna salad anyone?

MoMadness said...

That was so interesting; thanks for posting-he looks so cute and I'm so glad his tail will grow back. I love learning about the creatures.

Deb said...

I love Sponge Bob. I remember one episode where he was bragging about what he could do and he mentioned he could reproduce by budding. It's the perfect cartoon for someone who majored in biology!

Floridacracker said...

I'm LOL picturing Sam and her first lizard. That's a milestone all of us critter grabbers go through.
On that complication thing, I have some experience in the matter and well, um ...
Maybe y'all just see seem complicated because WE are so simple ;)

These guys must be more cold hardy than our little anoles.

LOL! No doubt! That may be when birds sprouted wings too.

Okay on the stem cells, but please don't stop being complicated.
It's so fascinating.

The psychic cracker connection!
You are right about those prickly pears. A little piece can grow a whole new cactus if it hits dirt. I admire their toughness as I detest their spines.

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy these little lizard interludes.

The Bob RULES!
I remember the first time I watched Sponge Bob. I thought, well, there's a cartoon that won't be around in a week. Then, the second time I watched it, I had an epiphany and have been hooked since.
My students think that is totally weird.
...they may be right.

Anonymous said...

spongebob weirds me out. i just don't like him, or his strange little friends.

i do, however, like lizards - very cool pictures! yeah, i learned early not to grab 'em by the tail too. i remember running to my dad in tears, holding a tail, nearly hysterical thinking i broke it.

Anonymous said...

Hold your horses, there. Under my plan for reincarnation, that means I gotta regenerate every bone (and muscle and brains and skin, etc.) in my body. You telling me this won't work?

Floridacracker said...

I hear ya, my wife thinks it's stupid, but the kids side with me :)
Lizard tail memories, is there anyone who doesn't have one?

Floridacracker said...

Just be glad you're not a woman :)

Rurality said...

Geckos will grow a tail back too... but it's just not the same. It's kind of a poor substitute.

Did you switch to Blogger Beta?

Mrs. S said...

I don't have a lizard tail memory :(

The pictures you take always amaze me - not only the quality, but the sheer QUANTITY of subject matter you find literally in your back yard!

(I'm catching up from a few days without computer time :D)

kathy a said...

i have no lizard experiences to speak of. but don't earthworms pretty much do the same thing? i do remember some traumatic earthworm accidents, when the kids and i were gardening. there is something powerful about being able to say, "no, you didn't break it! they can grow a new tail!"

Floridacracker said...

Just last night. Blogger finally allowed me to switch. Expect a few changes in layout ...

Mrs. S,
How is Zoe?
I guess you have to live where there are lizards to have those memories :)

Kathy A,
That's a great example of what I was saying in the post. The earthworm has all of his complicated organs at the head end, the short section in front of the band (clitellum), behind the band it's just intestine, nerve, and blood vessel.

So if you cut one, the head grows a new tail, but the tail is dead meat.

Thunder Dave said...

SB is one of the all time greatest cartoons, just ask my grandson! Although, I'm pretty sure the humor is a bit over his head at the moment!

Also, Nerves seem to be one of the things that we can regenerate fairly well. I've had some first hand experience with this that I could share with you sometime when you have trouble sleeping. ;-)

Floridacracker said...

yawning even now :)

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

What's missing around my old home are lizards...I had them when I lived in the woods and I always loved watching them scamper about.