Gator Re-TAIL!

Two alligators: left side alligator showing its tail and right side alligator showing its head

Do alligators need re-tail therapy too?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Alligators are nature’s prehistoric rough housers. It’s all fun games til someone loses a tail!   Gucci might make CROCODILE shoes, but they don’t sell ‘gator tails. How do young alligators design their new accessories?

Cindy Xu and her team at Arizona State University investigated. The team studied tissues and anatomy inside three REGROWN alligator tails and one original tail. They carefully examined these tails using MRI and X-Rays. This let them see what the tails are made of INSIDE.

What did they find? These new tails don’t have skeletons! Instead, they are made of collagen — a protein also found in skin, bones, and cartilage. Young gators can regrow their tail up to nine inches. Almost eighteen percent of their body length!

Like a superpower, gators have incredible wound healing and regenerative abilities. Understanding their secrets could help develop ways to repair and regenerate tissues in humans.

All it takes is knowing the right TAIL-or! And that’s not a croc!

Reference: Xu, C., Palade, J., Fisher, R. E., Smith, C. I., Clark, A. R., Sampson, S., Bourgeois, R., Rawls, A., Elsey, R. M., Wilson-Rawls, J., & Kusumi, K. (2020). Anatomical and histological analyses reveal that tail repair is coupled with regrowth in wild-caught, juvenile American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). Scientific Reports, 10(1), 20122.