Yes, Double-Tailed Lizards Exist

Yes, Double-Tailed Lizards Exist
An image of an Australian barred wedgesnout skink lizard (Ctenotus schomburgkii) with two tails. Photo credit: Mr Damian Lettoof, Curtin University (Supplied)

If you’ve sworn to have seen a multi-tailed lizard, the research is in your favour. A new study shows double-tailed lizards absolutely do exist and they might be more common than we think.

The research, conducted by Curtin University PhD Candidate James Barr, found while double-tailed lizards had been observed, little documentation about how or why they formed was minimal.

Their analysis, published in Biological Reviews, found up to 2.75 per cent of all lizards could exhibit the phenomenon and that some had grown up to six tails.

“We analysed the available two-tailed lizard data from more than 175 species across 22 families, from 63 different countries. Contrasting this data with all comparable lizard population numbers, our findings suggest an average of 2.75 per cent of all lizards within populations could have two tails or more at any one time,” Barr said in a media release.

“This is quite a surprisingly high number, and it really begins to make us wonder what ecological impacts this could have, especially noting that to the lizard, an extra tail represents a considerable increase in body mass to drag around.”

As some of us would likely know, many lizards have the ability to shed their tail when attacked. Most lizards, however, grow a single tail back when this happen in a process that takes weeks or months depending on the species.

Associate Professor Bill Bateman, a co-author on the paper, said when the growing process went awry and two or more tails grew, it could have an impact the lizard’s quality of life.

“Shedding a tail to escape a predator and then regenerating it seems like a good tactic; however, when this regeneration goes awry and results in multiple abnormal tails, this is likely to have an effect on the lizard,” Professor Bateman said.

“For example, could having two tails potentially affect their ability to find a mate, and therefore reduce opportunities for reproduction? Or on the contrary, could it potentially be of benefit?

“Behaviourally testing out these hypotheses would be an interesting and important future research direction, so biologists can learn more about the lifestyles of these multiple-tailed lizards.”

More research is needed to understand just how having strong tail energy affects the lizards’ lives. For now, they’ll remain the four-leaf clover of the lizard world.