Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 28 September 1915
The specific name of that legless lizard that looks, so like a snake, the blindworm or slowworm, is fragilis; it is a good name, too; far better than many scientific titles. But the blindworm, though fragile or brittle, is not delicate, for it can part with a portion of its anatomy without any inconvenience; indeed, it does so willingly in order to save its life. I saw one on a bank of heather and thyme, caught it, and allowed it to glide over my hand, but as it slipped away I gripped the extreme tip of its tail. There was no perceptible check to the progress of the blindworm; the major portion – the part that mattered – proceeded swiftly down the stony path to safety, and two inches of writhing tail remained in my fingers. The insensible bit it left behind struggled violently, and twenty-three minutes later still moved slightly and rhythmically; the happy owner had retired and in course of time would grow another end to replace the lost bit, an end it could again part with if danger threatened. The advantage to the lizard is obvious. A bird, snake, or other enemy is attracted by the struggles of the reflex tail, whilst the lizard itself escapes, moving, like my blindworm did, swiftly but without squirms and curves; all the enemy secures is a bit of rather dry latter end.
Only a few days before I had this object-lesson I had been reading of an incident witnessed by that delightful Indian writer “Eha”; he saw a scorpion vigorously stinging to death the really dead tail of a gecko, whilst its late owner quietly walked away “grinning.”
Source: Guardian Environment