Do Water Dragons Lose Their Tails?

Among the reptiles, water dragons and bearded dragons are the most sought-after lizards to be kept as pets. Water dragons are distinguished from other lizards because all four limbs of water dragons are well-developed, each with five claws at the end. In addition, water dragons have a tail longer than their bodies.

Since water dragons are naturally arboreal, their fully developed limbs and claws help them climb the trees, and their long tail helps them swim in the water. However, they prefer to spend most of their time at trees on the side of water banks, and if any predator approaches them, they are capable of jumping straight from the top of the tree into the water. In fact, water dragons are great swimmers because their tail’s specific oars like shape (flattened from the sides); helps them to swim swiftly in water.

Water dragon’s tail not only helps them avoid predators by swimming, but it also has many more advantages to offer. You may have observed the dancing tail of house lizards after being detached from the body, and most house lizards are able to regrow their tails. What about water dragons? Can they lose their tails, or can they regrow their tails if lost, etc.?

In short, yes, water dragons can accidentally lose a part or whole of their tails when handled roughly by tail rot or bites. In addition, many scientists consider that water dragons can intentionally lose their tails as a defensive mechanism to get rid of predators; much further research is needed on this topic. As far as the question “can water dragons regrow their tails” is concerned, yes, they can regrow their tails but not as efficiently as some other lizards. The newly grown tail of water dragons may not have its original look and may not be as effective as before.

After the short answers, let’s disclose the facts in detail about the water dragon’s tail loss ability.

Revealing The Facts About Water Dragon Tail Loss

The terms like “caudal autotomy,” or “tail autotomy,” or “tail-shedding are usually used to describe tail loss in water dragons or other lizards. As mentioned above, most lizards (including water dragons) can lose their tails to get rid of a predator. What actually happens is that when the broken tail lands on the ground, it continues to wriggle for a while (sometimes up to 5-7 minutes). This rapid movement of the broken tail diverts the attention of the predator toward itself. And when the predator gets busy trying to catch or hold the broken tail, the situation provides enough time for the dragon to escape.

In addition, water dragons (and other lizards) use their tails as storehouses of fat. So when a predator eats the lost tail, it may fulfill its energy requirements to some extent; thus, the predator can possibly decide not to chase the prey anymore for the time being. Some lizards (such as skinks) have been observed eating their own amputated tails to obtain some energy (stored in the tail) when they run short of food.

Can A Lizard Or Water Dragon Lose Its Tail Voluntarily?

It is well accepted theory that some lizards, including water dragons, can intentionally lose their tails when they feel threatened or get caught somewhere. Some of you may have experienced when you caught a house lizard by its tail, and its tail broke, even though you held it softly. They do this job by forcefully contracting their tail’s muscles in a particular fashion that breaks the vertebrae. However, a tail loss is frequently caused by a predator grasping and cutting the tail. Sometimes lizards continue to whip around their injured or partially broken tails until the tails are completely detached from the body.

Although it seems to be the case as described above, the concept of voluntary losing the tail is not completely understood, and much further research is required on this aspect.

How Does Tail Loss Affect A Water Dragon

Now you may be wondering how losing its tail may affect the routine life of water dragons or other lizards. Though losing tails don’t pose any immediate threat to their lives, in fact, most of the time, they lose their tails in an effort to save their lives from a predator. Losing their tail definitely has a negative effect on them from different aspects. For example, a tailless dragon may find it difficult to balance itself while running fast or climbing a tree. In addition, a dragon without a tail will not be as attractive to females as a dragon with a tail. If a baby or juvenile lizard loses its tail, it may have to face issues like slower growth and delayed sexual maturity

Can A Broken Tail Regrow

In most cases, the lost tail can regrow, but it will not be like the original tail in terms of length, strength, and efficiency. Instead of bone, the newly grown tail is made of cartilage tubes and can fall off more easily. If you pass through a jungle (where enough water dragons are inhabited), you will see evidence of tail regrowth because you will see many dragons without tails or partially grown new tails. 

Caring For Water Dragons (Or Other Lizards) After Tail Loss

Since tail loss is a natural process, their bodies are made to heal on their own. If your pet dragon loses its tail, you should take the following steps.

  • Remember that losing its tail doesn’t cause pain and doesn’t put any stress on your pet. In addition, usually, there is no or very little bleeding. If you observe any bleeding, compress the area with a clean bandage or gauze. 
  • The broken piece is useless, so throw it away immediately. 
  • Keep the vivarium clean to prevent any infection. 
  • Doesn’t use loose substrate, as it can stick to the wound and cause infection.
  • Apply topical antibiotic at the site
  • Feed him an appropriate diet with additional calcium and vitamins to enhance the regeneration of the new tail.
  • Make sure to maintain the internal environment of the vivarium properly.

How To Prevent Tail Loss In Captivity

As mentioned earlier, lizards mostly lose their tails as a defense strategy, so the key to preventing tail loss in captivity is to create a stress free environment for your dragon. Larger house pets (like dogs, cats, birds, etc.) should not have access to the vivarium. Next is following good husbandry practices (that include provision of the right food, space, temperature, and enrichments). In the end, the most crucial thing is never ever hold your pet dragon with its tail. You should learn the proper way to handle or pick a lizard.