Reptiles are the only amniotes that maintain the capacity to regenerate appendages. This study presents the first anatomical and histological evidence of tail repair with regrowth in an archosaur, the American alligator. The regrown alligator tails constituted approximately 6–18% of the total body length and were morphologically distinct from original tail segments. Gross dissection, radiographs, and magnetic resonance imaging revealed that caudal vertebrae were replaced by a ventrally-positioned, unsegmented endoskeleton. This contrasts with lepidosaurs, where the regenerated tail is radially organized around a central endoskeleton. Furthermore, the regrown alligator tail lacked skeletal muscle and instead consisted of fibrous connective tissue composed of type I and type III collagen fibers. The overproduction of connective tissue shares features with mammalian wound healing or fibrosis. The lack of skeletal muscle contrasts with lizards, but shares similarities with regenerated tails in the tuatara and regenerated limbs in Xenopus adult frogs, which have a cartilaginous endoskeleton surrounded by connective tissue, but lack skeletal muscle. Overall, this study of wild-caught, juvenile American alligator tails identifies a distinct pattern of wound repair in mammals while exhibiting features in common with regeneration in lepidosaurs and amphibia.
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