From the lizard’s detachable tail to the ostracod’s bioluminescent bursts, nature is full of strange survival mechanisms.
But the latest quirk uncovered by scientists might be the creepiest yet.
Researchers have identified a new species of fish-scale gecko whose skin and large scales tear away with ease when a predator tries to catch it.
Other geckos can drop their skin if firmly grasped, but the Geckolepis is thought to be unique in doing so actively and with just a slight touch.
The scales, the largest of any gecko, are attached via a narrow connection that easily tears. They even have a preformed splitting zone within the skin itself. Perhaps most impressively, it takes just weeks for them to regrow.
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich’s Mark D. Scherz, co lead on the study, said: “What’s really remarkable is that these scales—which are really dense and may even be bony, and must be quite energetically costly to produce—and the skin beneath them tear away with such ease, and can be regenerated quickly and without a scar.”
Capturing the geckos for the study proved a serious challenge. The team eventually resorted to using bundles of cotton wool in a bid to stop them from shedding their coats. Now they try to lure them into plastic bags.
The lizards were discovered in a cave system in northern Madagascar.