Even though alligators and lizards are very different in size, scientists have found an interesting similarity. It turned out that young alligators can grow tails up to 18% of their total body length.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists used advanced imaging techniques to find that alligator tails are complex structures with a central skeleton. They are made up of cartilage surrounded by connective tissue that is intertwined with blood vessels and nerves. The research results are published in Scientific Reports.
It turned out that the American alligator’s regrown tail shows signs of regeneration and wound healing within the same structure. The regeneration of cartilage, blood vessels, nerves, and scales is very similar to the regeneration of a lizard’s tail.
Also, scientists have found scar-like connective tissue instead of skeletal muscle in the alligator’s regrown tail. Future comparative studies of different reptiles will be important to understand why regenerative capacity differs in different groups of animals, the scientists note.
Alligators, lizards, and humans belong to the amniote group of animals with a spine. Scientists have previously studied the ability of lizards to regenerate their tails. Still, the discovery of complex new tails regrowth in alligators provides additional insight into all amniotes’ regeneration process.
“If we understand how different animals can repair and regenerate tissue, this knowledge can then be used to develop treatments for various diseases,” said Rebecca Fisher, study co-author and professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Phoenix. The researchers hope their findings will help open up new therapeutic approaches to treating injuries and treating diseases such as arthritis.