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Tree lizard’s quick release escape system makes jumpers turn somersaults
Date:2/12/2009

pped out of control, although two others seemed to manage their trajectories better.

Teaming up with Duncan Irschick to analyse the reptiles' leaps, the team could see that everything about the tailless lizards' take off was exactly the same as it had been before they lost the appendage. Things only started to go wrong as they left the jump stage. The lizards began flipping back by more than 30deg; some tumbled so far that they landed on their backs. The team also realised that as the animals took off, they raised the base of their tails as the rest of the appendage trailed along the ground, as if it was somehow stabilising the take off.

'If jumping and landing are important for lizards, they are really compromised,' says Gillis. 'Coordinated landing on a branch is out of the question when spinning backwards,' he adds. Escaping lizards probably pay a significant ecological cost for their life saving quick release system.

So how do the animals use their tails to ensure a safe touch down? Gillis isn't sure whether the lizards push down with their tails at take off to prevent themselves from spinning, or whether the trailing tail passively stabilises the animal's departure. He is also keen to find out more about how the animals adjust to life without their tails, and after they have grown back.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-012-234-25525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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