Gecko strips completely naked to flee from attackers

The Geckolepis megalepis sheds its huge scales and scampering away in its birthday suit. Photo / Dr Frank Glaw
The Geckolepis megalepis sheds its huge scales and scampering away in its birthday suit. Photo / Dr Frank Glaw

Fleeing naked into the night is a practice usually only adopted by surprised lovers.

But one lizard has evolved the behaviour as a cunning way to slip away from predators.

Many lizards can drop their tails when grabbed, but new species (Geckolepis megalepis) goes to more extreme lengths, shedding its huge scales and scampering away in its birthday suit.

Its super large scales are attached only by a relatively narrow region that tears with ease, and beneath them they have a separate skin.

Although it may look vulnerable in its naked form, the gecko can grow back its scales, scar free, in just a few weeks.

"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, tear away with such ease, and can be regenerated quickly and without a scar," said study author Mark Scherz, a doctoral student at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

The mechanism for regeneration, which is not well understood, could potentially have applications in human medicine, where regeneration research is already being informed by studies on salamander limbs and lizard tails.

But their remarkable scale-shedding ability, has made them difficult to study.

Researchers need to catch them with bundles of cotton wool or plastic bags, to avoid them losing almost all of their skin.

"You have to think a bit outside the box with Geckolepis. They're a nightmare to identify," added Scherz.

"We still have no idea what Geckolepis maculata really is - we are just getting more and more certain what it's not."

The new species, was described by researchers in the journal PeerJ.

This article was originally published by the Daily Telegraph.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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