Lizard Musculoskeletal System

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Lizard tail after autotomy (© Metatron, Wikimedia Commons

Like other reptiles, lizards have a single occiptal condyle. Ribs are present on all vertebrae except tail and cervical vertebrae.


Several families of lizard can voluntarily discard the tail when seized by a predator. The discarded wriggling tail is thought to distract the attention of the predator, enabling the lizard to escape. The animal is able to grow a new tail, although the regenerated tail is never as long or well formed as the original.

Lizards that are capable of autotomy have a vertical fracture plane through the body and part of the neural arch of the tail vertebrae. This is a plate of cartilage or connective tissue that develops after ossification. Autotomy and regeneration occur in many iguanid species but not in many agamids, monitors and chameleons.


  • Mader, D.R. (2005). Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Saunders. pp. 1264. ISBN 072169327X