The mechanical properties of gekkonid lizard skin are investigated for the first time. Although the skin of certain geckos, such as Gekko gecko, behaves in ‘typical’ vertebrate fashion, that of others, such as Ailuronyx seychellensis, exhibits unusual properties associated with identifiable morphological specializations. Light and scanning electron microscopy reveal that Ailuronyx dermis is functionally bilayered; the stratum compactum is divided into inner and outer layers by intervening loose connective tissue. The inner layer is strong and tough and does not differ significantly in its properties from that of Gekko gecko whole skin. The much thicker outer layer, however, is only 1/20 as strong and 1/50 as tough as the inner layer, and exhibits preformed zones of weakness. In nature, Ailuronyx parts with considerable portions of the outer components of the skin as an antipredator escape mechanism. Skin samples from 17 additional gecko species varied considerably in their strength, stiffness and toughness. None of the forms with tough skin employs regional integumentary loss as a predator escape strategy. Weak skin alone is not sufficient to permit regional integumentary loss, as the capability to lose the skin involves not only inherent properties of the tissue, but also features of the mechanical interaction of skin layers with one another and with the underlying body wall.

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