Understanding how lizards shed and regrow their tails could lead to muscle and nerve regeneration in humans, say scientists.
Researchers have identified a genetic programme that triggers new tissue growth after a lizard sacrifices its tail to escape a predator.
Cutting-edge gene sequencing technology was used to study the process in the green anole lizard.
US scientist Professor Kenro Kusumi, from Arizona State University, said: “Lizards basically share the same toolbox of genes as humans.
“Lizards are the most closely related animals to humans that can regenerate entire appendages. We discovered that they turn on at least 326 genes in specific regions of the regenerating tail, including genes involved in embryonic development, response to hormonal signals and wound-healing.”
A number of other animals, including salamanders, tadpoles and fish, can also regenerate tails.
But lizards were found to have a unique pattern of tissue growth that is distributed throughout the tail.