This green-necked lizard (Algyroides nigropunctatus) was discovered in June, in the region of Metohija in Kosovo. Its three tails were respectively 30, 15 and 10 mm long.
Three-tailed lizards are very rare in the world, according to Daniel Jablonski, a biologist at Comenius University, Slovakia, one of its discoverers. Two-tailed lizards are rare but more common.
“I’ve studied reptiles for a long time, hundreds or thousands of specimens, but this is the first time I’ve seen a three-tailed lizard,” he shared via email with National Geographics .
The lizard has the ability to cut off its old tail to hide from enemies. The new tail will then grow with cartilage. Some other vertebrates such as salamanders or tuataras, a reptile that lives in New Zealand, also have this ability.
Previous studies have shown that many tails in lizards occur when the old tail is not completely cut off, still attached to the body. However, in some cases, such as in the Kosovo lizard, accessory tails are formed after the old tail has been completely removed from the body. From the outside, you can see three rather large tails, like three branches growing from the same base.
Scientists believe that a powerful force attacked by a bird of prey or wild dog could have shattered the lizard’s tail spine, and each new tail sprouted from a separate vertebra. This study was published in August in the journal Ecologica Montenegrina.
Observations show that the new skin on the tail is different in color and shape from the body, which makes this conclusion more compelling.
“What’s interesting here is that the old tail was actually lost, not just injured and still attached to the body as was previously concluded,” Curtin University biologist Bill Bateman said in Australia.
The lizard was found to be in good health upon examination. The 3 tails also do not affect his balance or cause him other faults. He was released into his natural habitat.