How salamanders can regrow nearly complete tails but lizards can’t


an axolotl and a green anole
TAIL TROUBLE Salamanders such as the axolotl (above) can regrow nearly perfect tails, including missing nerve cells. Lizards such as the green anole (below) can’t.

Salamanders and lizards can both regrow their tails, but not to equal perfection.

While a regenerated salamander tail closely mimics the original, bone and all, a lizard’s replacement is filled with cartilage and lacks nerve cells. That contrast is due to differences between stem cells in the animals’ spinal cords, researchers report online August 13 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When a salamander loses its tail, neural stem cells in the creature’s spinal cord can develop into any type of nervous system cell, including nerve cells, or neurons. But through evolution, lizard neural stem cells “have lost this ability,” says study coauthor Thomas Lozito, a biologist at the University of Pittsburgh. Lizards, while they can regrow cartilage and skin, cannot regenerate neurons, the researchers found.

Lozito and colleagues studied neural stem cells from the axolotl salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum) and from two lizard species — the green anole (Anolis carolinensis) and the mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris). The team…

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