How Do Lizards Defend Themselves against Predators?

Some geckos, skinks, and salamanders have the ability to sacrifice their tails in order to save their lives. During an attack, the tails of these reptiles and amphibians can detach -- and then continue wriggling, presumably from stored energy along the spinal column, creating a diversion that allows the prey to flee. This self-defense mechanism is called autotomy, or self-amputation.

The animal can partially regenerate its tail, usually over a period of weeks, but the new appendage is usually a different length, texture, or color from the original.

Take it, I can grow another:

  • In most lizards, autotomy occurs when the tail is grabbed with sufficient force. Some animals, such as certain geckos, can perform true autotomy and cast off a tail under extreme stress.
  • Some lizards return to their jettisoned tails and eat them. However, the attackers, having missed out on dinner, will often snack on these discarded tails after the dust settles.
  • Autotomy is not unique to reptiles and amphibians. The harvesting of stone crabs in Florida is accomplished by removing one or both of a crab's claws and then returning the animal to the ocean, where it often regrows the lost limbs.
More Info: LiveScience

Discussion Comments


Very true. My dogs grab salamanders and usually end up with their tails while they make a getaway. Most of them around my house have stubs for tails now!

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