Unlike Smaller Reptiles, Alligators Have to Regrow a Massive Tail
Small reptiles are known to regrow their tails, but alligators have a potential body length of fourteen feet, and scientists were not sure if they could regrow their massive tails. Now, researchers have found out that young alligators can actually regrow their tails. Apparently, the new tails are complex structures that have a central skeleton with cartilage and connective tissue, interlaced with nerves and blood vessels.
The regrown tail exhibits signs of wound healing and regeneration, and the regrowth of cartilage, blood vessels, nerves, and scales is consistent with other lizard tail regeneration studies. Scientists were also surprised to find scar-like connective tissue instead of skeletal muscle. Studies on tail regeneration have been going on for decades because alligators, humans, and lizards belong to the same group of backbone animals called amniotes. The new discovery leads to questions about the possibilities for the future and the history of regeneration.
Researchers Hope the New Finding Will Lead to Future Medical Discoveries
The researchers who made the new findings see a lot of potential for future discoveries, including new therapeutic approaches to treating diseases like arthritis and repairing injuries. The hope is that understanding how different species of animals can regenerate their tissues will allow scientists to leverage this knowledge and develop new medical therapies.
The new finding has also left scientists with an open question regarding alligators, birds, and their common ancestors. While alligators have managed to keep the cellular machinery that allows them to regenerate complex tails, birds seem to have lost it in their evolutionary path. The question is, when did that happen? And could there be fossils of bird-related dinosaurs with regrown tails that would reveal clues to that time period?