Nat Geo on the veranda

(Warning: If you dislike ants, you are not going to like the photo at the end of this post.)

Last night, both of my cats were enjoying the cooler evening temperatures on the veranda while I sat at my desk by the open sliding glass door. The peace was disturbed when one of the cats suddenly sprang into action, dove into a plant, and came prancing back out.

This is usually a bad sign for anything I’d like to save, so I jumped out of my chair and prepared for a rescue — just as whatever was in the cat’s mouth dropped to the veranda and began flipping wildly about.

In the darkness, I couldn’t see what it was until I was reaching out to pick it up…

…and realized that it was a tail. A small gecko tail, doing exactly what it’s designed to do: detach and flip around to distract the predator while the gecko itself gets away.

I have never seen this in real life. It is amazing how much that tail flips! And for how long! In the beginning, the muscle fibers twitched so strongly that the tail repeatedly bounced into the air. As the twitching began to die down, the airborne bounces were reduced to flips: top side, bottom side, top side, bottom side. Later still, it went to straight, curl, straight, curl.

The movement went on for more than ten minutes. I was completely goggled. That is a lot of electrical activity for a body part that is no longer getting any blood supply to power the muscles.

It was too dark to photograph the tail, so I thought I’d do it in the morning. Well…I forgot that there are other residents living on our verandas, and they found the bounty first.

Gecko tail

The ants had already stripped away most of the skin. I expect to see bone by the end of the day.

The good news is that I saw the gecko later this morning, now only about four centimeters (1.5 inches) long. She’s missing half her body length and a lot of balance, but she has lived to tell the…

(I couldn’t resist.)


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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7 Responses to Nat Geo on the veranda

  1. annrn says:

    Love it. My felines do the same.😺 Next time try to get the picture of the gecko who lived, Thanks🍻

  2. Is it a gecko, though? The animal I’ve seen doing this around here isn’t what I’d call a gecko (“osga”), but a “lagartixa”, which is a small lizard, longitudinally striped, and belongs to the family Lacertidae. I don’t really know what’s the American usage of the term, which tends to vary even within a language (Brazilians, for instance, call “lagartixa” to our “osgas”), but I thought it was restricted to te gekkonids.

    • I’m positive. It’s true that the lagartixa also has the detaching tail defense, but I don’t see those on our third-floor verandas. What we get up here are the osgas with their little round toes and ability to stick anywhere. (And you are correct, the American usage of gecko is restricted to the gekkonids. At least, Americans who can recognize them…)

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