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Gecko-mania

April 19, 2010

Torah Kachur

Scientists agree; when faced with having to run away from a viking, fight off rabid dogs or cut off your own arm, you should do the gecko. 

 

That's right - you should be like the gecko and drop a limb.  It'll grow back, I promise.  Okay, a gecko tail will grow back, but your arm may not... just warning you.

 

        Torah Kachur gecko amputation tail flip flop movement regeneration

Geckos can voluntarily amputate their tails.  It doesn't even need to be pulled or anything - you can literally scare their tails off.  And one of the coolest things is that the tail the geckos leave behind keeps thrashing about in a creepy post-humous death dance.   The abandoned tail continues flipping, flapping and flailing about in a pattern that keeps scientists mesmerized and fascinated.

 

But why on Earth would it drop its tail?  The obvious reason is that a limb jumping around on its own will seriously freak out an attacker.

 

The flips and flails are actually complex and patterned - the movements are preprogrammed in the neurons of the tail and are not controlled directly by the brain.  The tail, literally, has a mind of its own.  Which makes for some really awesome videos, and also gives researchers some big clues into the autonomy of neurons in the spinal cord, potentially helping spinal cord repair after paralysis. 

 

Researchers from the University of Calgary and Clemson University are also investigating whether the tails can sense and respond to the environment when they aren't attached to the body.

 

I've heard of another organ having a mind of its own, but the gecko tail is shocking in its complexity.

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