This adult southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) is living under one of the native California lilac, or ceanothus, in the front yard. She is probably the mother of the juvenile we rescued from the garage.
If you look closely you can see where she has lost her original tail and regrown the current tail. The coloring is less complex and doesn't quite match her body. Alligator lizards can let their tail break off in order to startle and redirect a predator. It is an amazing evolutionary adaptation. The breakage occurs through a vertebra; kind of like the perforations between saltine crackers. The musculature comes apart at these breakage sites as well. There is little blood loss and nerves in the tail will continue to make it twitch for several minutes. The continued movement of the tail tricks the predator into thinking it's caught the whole lizard.
The tail grows back, but the bone is not replaced. The replacement tail can break again if needed. Science has yet to figure out exactly how this tail replication takes place.
This alligator lizard is one of our yard's natural predators and the benefit of a yard that provides habitat.
What does a baby alligator lizard look like? Rescuing an Alligator
More Earth Minutes with Reptiles
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