A Queensland woman has found an extraordinary two-tailed lizard in her backyard shed.
Had it not become trapped inside a bucket Morayfield local Bianca O’Donnell would likely never have noticed the tiny garden skink.
“I was very surprised, because I’ve never seen a lizard with a forked tail,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
Concerned that it may not have eaten in days, she placed the listless creature in her compost heap where it could feed on insects.
Before she set it free, Ms O’Donnell took two photos and posted them to social media, hoping someone could explain why it had split in two.
The post attracted close to 400 likes with Facebook users amazed by her quirky find. Some respondents also quickly worked out why the curious tail had developed.
“It looks pretty cool. I hope it doesn't affect how it gets around,” wrote one person.
“Always brilliant to see them,” someone else added.
Why does the skink have two tails?
Australian Museum herpetologist Dane Trembath told Yahoo News Australia tail bifurcation occurs in lizard species that drop their tails like skinks and geckos.
Looking closely at the image of Ms O’Donnell’s garden skink, he could see the original tail had likely split, triggering another tail to grow.
Strangely, the tail did not break off completely and healed instead, resulting in the skink having two tails.
“It appears that one of the tails is probably the original tail, and so there's been damage and then this other tail has come in,” he said.
“With most lizards the tail breaks freely so this doesn’t happen.
“But a couple of times a year people send us in photos of it. In our collection, we've got a few examples of this. It’s quite interesting.”
How many tails can a lizard have?
A 2020 study published in the journal Biological Reviews examined 425 sightings of lizards with multiple tail regenerations ranging from bifurcations to hexafurcations.
They concluded such occurrences are not rare and that up to three per cent of lizards worldwide could have the condition.
Lizards with multiple tails have been widely documented, with an Argentinian black-and-white tegu found to have six tails, and a blue-throated keeled lizard with three.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.