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Science

Amazing trick: Scientists say Madagascan gecko sheds its skin when attacked

Geckos in Madagascar have been found to shed their skin at lightning speed when attacked. The amazing discovery could mean advances for human medicine.

It's long been known that lizards drop their tails to avoid being eaten by predators, but little was known about the Madagascan fish scale gecko and its ability to shed its skin when under attack - until now.

In the biomedical sciences journal "PeerJ," scientists report they discovered the reptiles were able to shed their skin at lighting speed when being attacked by predators, leaving their attacker with a mouth full of skin.

To research the animals, scientists had to catch the reptiles without disturbing them, Mark Scherz from the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich said.

Up until now, researchers tried to catch the animals using cotton pads, but even that caused the geckos to shed their skin. This time around, scientists used plastic bags.

Biggest find yet

The fish scale geckos have the biggest scales found to date on geckos, Scherz said.

Scientists involved in the research say the reptiles were somewhat difficult to decipher from other geckos in the area as they look similar to several other species from the same reptile family, added Scherz.

"It's a nightmare trying to determine [which ones] are fish scale geckos," the scientist noted.

Researches scanned the animals using CT scanners to get a better insight into their bodily make up.

Those involved in the research say they were also impressed by the speed at which the geckos skin grew back after shedding. It was only a matter of weeks, the researchers report, until their bodies were covered again - and there were no scars, even though part of second layer of skin was ripped during the shedding process.

The find is particularly interesting for the field of medicine as it might give scientists a greater insight into improving techniques for accelerating human skin healing.

With dpa.