Regeneration in the spiny mouse, Acomys, a new mammalian model (2023)


If you pose the question – can mammals regenerate? – the typical reply is likely to be no. Certainly not compared to the prodigious powers displayed by zebrafish and salamanders. This impression is probably prevalent because we all have scars on our skin, the heart fibroses after a myocardial infarction and ends up killing us, and paraplegia is the likely result of spinal cord injury. But if we delve a little more deeply then there are actually some tissues with surprising regenerative powers even in mammals. Skeletal muscle regenerates extremely well after certain types of damage [1], the liver can regenerate provided it is not chronically damaged [2], deer antlers regenerate each year covered by full thickness skin [3], postnatal mice and rats can regenerate the heart even after amputation of the apex of the ventricle [4,5], embryonic skin heals scarlessly [6], and childrens’ fingertips can regenerate after amputation as can the tips of adult mouse digits [7,8]. Perhaps these are the remaining vestiges of a formerly widespread regenerative ability in mammals which has been lost in evolution. If so, perhaps not all mammals have lost regenerative ability and some have retained it. After all, we currently have surveyed very few of the 5400 species of mammals for regeneration so there may be some mammals that can regenerate very well but have yet to be discovered. We suggest that the spiny mouse of the genus Acomys is one such example of regenerative powers which have been evolutionarily conserved.

There are 18 species of Acomys in the genus which are characterized by spine-like hairs on the dorsum, and they are in the subfamily called Deomyinae. The closest relatives to this subfamily are the gerbils and not the old world mice and rats on which most mammalian regenerative studies are conducted. A phylogenetic study of the distribution of regenerative powers among rodents would be fascinating because of the remarkable regeneration that Acomys species display as we now describe.

Section snippets


Following full-thickness dorsal skin excisional wounds of 4mm–1.5cm, Acomys is capable of regenerating hairs, erector pili smooth muscle, sebaceous glands, panniculus carnosus (PC) skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and dermis [9••]. The same wound in the lab mouse, Mus, forms a hairless scar with dense collagenous dermis and no PC muscle. After wounding, Acomys re-epithelializes the wound faster than Mus, an observation also seen in in vitro scratch assays using isolated keratinocytes [10]. The

Ear punches

Following ear biopsy punches of 2mm–8mm, Acomys is capable of wound closure and regeneration of the missing tissue. In addition to the accessory organs that regenerated in the dorsal skin (above), Acomys also regenerated cartilage in its ears [9••,16]. Although ear cells re-enter the cell cycle in both Acomys and Mus, only Acomys cells progress through the cell cycle and ultimately proliferate. The regenerating Acomys ear demonstrated all the characteristics of a mammalian blastema including

Skeletal muscle

Myotoxins which cause breakdown of the sarcolemma are typically injected into skeletal muscle to examine its regenerative ability. In response to this acute damage, Acomys tibialis anterior muscle regenerated in eight days, 2–3 days faster than Mus. RT-qPCR data showed that Acomys exhibited lower levels of NF-kB, indicative of inflammation, and TGFβ-1 and collagens, indicative of fibrosis, as well as higher levels Cxcl12, an anti-inflammatory cytokine. In response to chronic damage in the form


Myocardial infarction (MI) was induced via ligation of the left anterior descending coronary artery. Following this injury, Acomys exhibited an infarct area that was fourfold smaller and displayed increased coronary microvasculature compared to Mus. In the left ventricle of Acomys, over twice as many BrdU-positive, proliferating cardiomyocytes were observed compared to Mus. Four weeks postinjury, MRI showed that Acomys left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) had returned to baseline levels

Spinal cord

A C3/4 lateral dorsal hemi-crush injury was induced using forceps to damage the spinal cord. Acomys exhibited lower levels of inflammation and scarring compared to Mus. Acomys resumed bladder voiding ability two days after injury, while it took over two weeks for Mus to regain the same ability. RT2 Profiler PCR arrays (Qiagen) for wound healing and neurogenesis were used to assay both species. Generally, Mus upregulated more genes associated with wound healing, whereas Acomys upregulated more


Unilateral uretal obstruction (UUO) was conducted by ligating the left ureter with 4−0 silk. After two weeks of obstruction, Acomys maintained normal anatomic structure and kidney weights, while Mus kidney weights rapidly declined due to fibrosis. Extensive interstitial matrix fibrosis was observed in Mus, but none was evident in Acomys. Even after three weeks of obstruction, there was no difference in total collagen levels between obstructed and contralateral kidneys in Acomys. Cdh1 protein

What is the cellular and molecular basis of this regenerative behavior?

There are two clear physiological differences between Acomys and Mus that are systemic and, therefore, relevant to all the tissues described above. These distinctions may begin to explain the basis of regenerative behavior versus fibrosis. The first is the immune system and its components since a strong inflammatory response prevents infection by killing pathogens but can also damage tissue, induce fibrosis, and inhibit regeneration. A blunted immune system is characteristic of the mammalian


Each tissue in Acomys that has been examined, as described above, shows a non-fibrotic, regenerative response to damage suggesting that this genus has evolved a property which affects all the tissues of the body. It will be important, therefore, to continue the survey of regenerative abilities across further tissues and organs of the body such as the brain, retina, and long bone cartilage which are subject to traumatic damage and of medical relevance to determine whether the regenerative

(Video) Regeneration Bonus: Ashley Seifert

Conflict of interest statement

Nothing declared.

References and recommended reading

Papers of particular interest, published within the period of review, have been highlighted as:

CRediT authorship contribution statement

Aaron Gabriel W. Sandoval: Writing - original draft. Malcolm Maden: Writing - review & editing.


Work from the authors’ lab has been funded by W.M. Keck Foundation, National Science Foundation (1636007) and National Institutes of Health (1R21 0D023210, 1R21 0D028209).

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    Developmental Cell, Volume 56, Issue 19, 2021, pp. 2722-2740.e6

    Spiny mice (Acomys cahirinus) are terrestrial mammals that evolved unique scar-free regenerative wound-healing properties. Myofibroblasts (MFs) are the major scar-forming cell type in skin. We found that following traumatic injury to ear pinnae, MFs appeared rapidly in both Acomys and mouse yet persisted only in mouse. The timing of MF loss in Acomys correlated with wound closure, blastema differentiation, and nuclear localization of the Hippo pathway target protein Yap. Experiments invitro revealed an accelerated PP2A-dependent dephosphorylation activity that maintained nuclear Yap in Acomys dermal fibroblasts (DFs) and was not detected in mouse or human DFs. Treatment of Acomys invivo with the nuclear Yap-TEAD inhibitor verteporfin prolonged MF persistence and converted tissue regeneration to fibrosis. Forced Yap activity prevented and rescued TGF-β1-induced human MF formation invitro. These results suggest that Acomys evolved modifications of Yap activity and MF fate important for scar-free regenerative wound healing invivo.

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    Small mammals actively decrease metabolism during daily torpor and hibernation to save energy. Recently, depression of mitochondrial substrate oxidation in isolated liver mitochondria was observed and associated to hypothermic/hypometabolic states in Djungarian hamsters, mice and hibernators. We aimed to clarify whether hypothermia or hypometabolism causes mitochondrial depression during torpor by studying the Golden spiny mouse (Acomys russatus), a desert rodent which performs daily torpor at high ambient temperatures of 32°C. Notably, metabolic rate but not body temperature is significantly decreased under these conditions. In isolated liver, heart, skeletal muscle or kidney mitochondria we found no depression of respiration. Moderate cold exposure lowered torpor body temperature but had minor effects on minimal metabolic rate in torpor. Neither decreased body temperature nor metabolic rate impacted mitochondrial respiration. Measurements of mitochondrial proton leak kinetics and determination of P/O ratio revealed no differences in mitochondrial efficiency. Hydrogen peroxide release from mitochondria was not affected. We conclude that interspecies differences of mitochondrial depression during torpor do not support a general relationship between mitochondrial respiration, body temperature and metabolic rate. In Golden spiny mice, reduction of metabolic rate at mild temperatures is not triggered by depression of substrate oxidation as found in liver mitochondria from other cold-exposed rodents.

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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

(Video) D133 - Spiny Mouse - RJ, SR, JD, AR


What mammalian organ regeneration occurs in spiny mice? ›

Spiny mice (genus: Acomys) are terrestrial mammals that regenerate severe skin wounds without fibrotic scars to evade predators. Recent studies have shown that spiny mice also regenerate acute ischemic and traumatic injuries to kidney, heart, spinal cord, and skeletal muscle.

What is the regeneration ability of spiny mouse? ›

The spiny mouse (Acomys species) has emerged as an exciting research organism due to its remarkable ability to undergo scarless regeneration of skin wounds and ear punches. Excitingly, Acomys species demonstrate scar-free healing in a wide-range of tissues beyond the skin.

What is the lifespan of a spiny mouse? ›

AnAge entry for Acomys cahirinus

In captivity, average longevity is about 3 years. Older mothers have larger litters [0434]. One captive specimen lived at least 5.9 years [0671].

What is the name of the mouse with spikes? ›

African spiny mouse, (genus Acomys), any of more than a dozen species of small to medium-sized rodents characterized by the harsh, inflexible spiny hairs of their upperparts.

Which mammalian organ is regenerative? ›

In mammals, regeneration via cellular transdifferentiation is observed in liver and pancreas (see below).

Can any mammal regenerate? ›

But these mechanisms wear down as a person ages and cancer is often the result. Nevertheless, mammals do regenerate skin, muscle, and blood. Scientists are just beginning to learn about other types of cells, such as those in the brain and blood, that also regenerate.

Which organism has the best regeneration ability? ›

The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a Mexican aquatic salamander that is close to extinction in the wild, but in many laboratories it is the mouse of regenerative medicine, as it is the vertebrate with the greatest regenerative capacity.

Can mice regenerate body parts? ›

Even neonate mice can regenerate heart tissue but lose the ability during the first week of life.

What are three animals that have good regeneration abilities describe the regeneration abilities of one of the animals in at least three sentences? ›

Answer and Explanation: Three animals that have a good regeneration ability are newts, xenopus and zebrafish. Newts are able to regenerate certain parts of their body such as their limbs, tail or fin. Cells near the limb will deed differentiate to form a mass of stem-like cells.

Can a spiny mouse regrow its tail? ›

Like salamanders, newts and other amphibians, the African spiny mouse can regrow toetips, seal holes in its ears, and regenerate missing skin, bone muscles and nerves without any trace of scar tissue, making it a stand-out example among mammals.

How long can mice live without water? ›

Mice need water to aid digestion, regulate their body temperature, and rid their bodies of toxins. Unfortunately, the small rodents can survive for more than a month without drinking any water. However, studies show acute water deprivation leads to mice beginning to lose weight and decrease their activities.

Why is it called a spiny mouse? ›

Similar in appearance to mice of the genus Mus, spiny mice are small mammals with bare, scaled tails. However, their coats are endowed with unusually stiff guard hairs similar to the spines of a hedgehog; this trait is the source of the common name, spiny mouse.

Why is it called mouse not rat? ›

Mice are typically distinguished from rats by their size. Generally, when a muroid rodent is discovered, its common name includes the term mouse if it is smaller, or rat if it is larger. The common terms rat and mouse are not taxonomically specific.

How fast do mice heal? ›

But he has already found that it complements its weak skin with extremely fast healing. Its wounds stop bleeding, scab over quickly, and shrink by 64 percent within a day. While a rat would take 5 to 7 days to completely cover a wound with new skin, a spiny mouse can do it in just 3.

What is the deadliest mouse in the world? ›

The grasshopper mouse survives in the deserts of southwest United States by feeding on the bark scorpion, which are plentiful, due to other resources being less common. Their aggressive nature extends beyond their hunting habits: when held in captivity with other mice, they will often kill and eat those other mice.

Why mammals Cannot regenerate? ›

Unfortunately, most of the adult mammalian tissues have few or no resident stem cells to support regeneration. This is likely one of the major limiting factors to regeneration.

What are the three types of regeneration? ›

There are three types of regen options: passive, active and manual.

What are the 2 organs that can regenerate? ›

Some human organs and tissues regenerate rather than simply scar, as a result of injury. These include the liver, fingertips, and endometrium.

Can humans fully regenerate? ›

Unlike some of our invertebrate and vertebrate cousins with the capacity to regenerate limbs after traumatic loss, humans do not have the ability to regrow arms or legs lost to injury or disease.

Could humans ever regenerate? ›

Regeneration is blocked in humans primarily because scar tissue is formed after an injury. One possible solution would be to administer drugs that impart the ability to regenerate tissues and even organs and stop scars from forming.

Can humans regenerate anything? ›

Humans and many different animals have regenerative abilities. Children, for example, can regenerate lost fingertips, while adults experience constant regeneration on a smaller scale through the replacement of features such as skin, hair and intestinal lining.

What animal can regenerate the fastest? ›

While the axolotl is not the sole master of regeneration in the animal kingdom, it is the only vertebrate that can regenerate many body parts throughout its entire life. While there are no known mammals that can fully regenerate missing appendages, many harbor hints of regenerative potential—humans included.

Which animal can regenerate its whole body? ›

The axolotl (say "ax-oh-lot-el") is a Mexican species of salamander. It's also known as a Mexican walking fish. It can regenerate, repair or replace its arms, legs, tail, lower jaw, brain and heart.

Can mice regenerate limbs? ›

Mice have shown the ability to regrow fingertips, but only if the injury is above the fingernail. (Human children have also demonstrated this ability in some cases.)

Can the same mouse come back? ›

Animals will always return to somewhere they know they can find food and shelter, unless there is a better alternative. Therefore, when disposing of a mouse or rat, you need to take them at least a couple of miles away, or they will find their way back.

Can a mouse leg grow back? ›

Abstract. Mice will replace the tip of a foretoe when it is amputated distal to the last interphalangeal joint. Amputation of the digit more proximal to the joint does not result in regrowth of the foretoe.

What are two examples of regeneration in animals? ›

Some animals have extensive regenerative abilities. For example, the tiny freshwater animal called Hydra can form two whole bodies after being cut in half. The Axolotl, or Mexican salamander, is an animal with a backbone that can regenerate the form and function of almost any limb, organ, or other body part.

What is the process of regeneration? ›

Regeneration is the natural process of replacing or restoring damaged or missing cells, tissues, organs, and even entire body parts to full function in plants and animals. Scientists are studying regeneration for its potential uses in medicine, such as treating a variety of injuries and diseases.

What is the power of regeneration with respect to some animals? ›

Regeneration can be defined as the natural ability of some organisms to repair and regrow damaged or lost body parts. Some organisms may have the ability to grow into a complete organism even from a small fragment of the body, e.g. Hydra and Planaria.

Can a mouse survive if its tail is cut off? ›

Can a Mouse or Rat Survive Without a Tail? Without a tail, a rodent can survive, but it becomes more vulnerable to predators and less capable of climbing and traveling quickly. A tailless rat cannot regulate its body temperature effectively and is more vulnerable to infections and disease.

How do African spiny mice heal quickly? ›

These tiny rodents can jettison strips of skin from their own hides when captured by predators, and heal those same wounds with extraordinary speed. Healing powers are common in the animal world.

Why does a mouse tail removed by surgery not produce tailless mice? ›

Removal of the tail cannot change the genes of the germ cells of the mice. It is a physical change which alters the anatomy of the body only. It is an acquired trait. Only those variations which occur at a genetic level are inherited to the next generation.

How long can a mouse live without oxygen? ›

Coping Without Oxygen

The mice died in less than 15 minutes. In a zero-oxygen atmosphere, the naked mole rats and mice each lost consciousness in less than a minute. After 60 seconds of anoxia, none of the mice recovered when normal oxygen levels were restored.

How long can mice go without air? ›

Exhibiting great endurance and flexibility, mice can swim and tread water for up to 3 days. When fully submerged, mice can also hold their breath for up to three minutes. Compare that to the two minute average for humans, and it's certainly impressive.

Do mice leave if they smell a cat? ›

For example, if mice smell cat urine, mice are likely to leave the area to avoid the predator. Stowers discovered that pheromones travel through the mouse nose to the brain, where the pheromones will interact with neurons which stimulate emotions. In this case, it's the smell of cats that sparks fear in mice.

Can male spiny mice live together? ›

Wheels of other designs are dangerous and plastic wheels get chewed up quickly. Spiny mice love to live in a group. Two males or two females love living together as well as if the animals were of the opposite sexes.

Can spiny mice live alone? ›

Housing. Being very social creatures, spiny mice should never be kept on their own. They live most happily in colonies or small groups.

Are spiny mice good pets? ›

Spiny mice are not born hand-tame, they must be handled on a regular basis, especially at young age. However, spiny mice aren't aggressive by nature and with a little effort they make wonderfully tame and calm pets.

What was it called before it was called a mouse? ›

Left:Douglas Engelbart and Bill English invented the mouse -- then named the "Bug" -- in 1964, and created this chunky, beautiful wooden device to demonstrate the concept.

Will a mice bite you? ›

Mice can bite if they feel threatened so it is wise to avoid trying to pick them up. If a bite does occur, wash the area with soap and seek immediate medical attention if you believe the bite to be serious.

Can a rat become a mouse? ›

Mice, meanwhile, have normal-looking heads and feet—a dead giveaway that you're dealing with the smaller pest. And no, mice can't grow into rats; they're completely separate animals. In fact, the two species can't even cross-breed, Corrigan says.

How far can a mouse smell? ›

They use pheromones, or scent markers, to communicate with other mice and rely on scents to detect predators or other potential dangers. A mouse's sense of smell is so powerful, it can identify the age and sex of another mouse up to 10 miles away!

How long do mice sleep? ›

Mice and humans both cycle through two main types of sleep: non-REM and REM sleep. Unlike humans, mice snooze for about 12 hours a day, and their sleep is condensed into cycles of several minutes to an hour long.

How often do mice poop? ›

According to the National Pest Management Association, a mouse produces between 40 to 100 droppings per day, while a rat produces between 20 to 50 droppings. Mouse droppings are best described as small, pellet-shaped and dark brown in color with pointed ends. Mice droppings are typically small, about ¼-inch in length.

Why do mice scream when caught? ›

They Sense Danger

They might also begin to make more noise if they hear or feel the presence of a human. The sense of danger is also the reason why you hear a high-pitched sound shortly after trapping a mouse, provided that it is not yet dead.

Is there an immortal mouse? ›

A single mouse has yielded 581 copies of itself after Japanese researchers figured out how to improve on the technique used to creat Dolly, the monstrous and unholy sheep-thing that heralded the dawn of cloning tech back in 1996.

What rodent kills scorpions? ›

It's the southern grasshopper mouse (Onychomys torridus), the only carnivorous mouse in North America. Its unique biology and resistance to scorpion venom may one day help researchers treat human pain disorders.

What type of regeneration is found in Planaria? ›

Intercalary regeneration between juxtaposed body fragments. Planarians can also regenerate missing tissues on their medial-lateral (ML) axis, such as following sagittal and parasagittal amputations (Figure 1C).

What organism does regeneration occur in? ›

Organisms regenerate in different ways. Plants and some sea creatures, such as jellyfish, can replace missing parts by extensively remodeling their remaining tissues. Some animals such as lobsters, catfish, and lizards replace missing parts by first growing a specialized bud of cells, called a blastema.

In which organism the process of regeneration is found? ›

Regeneration occurs in organisms like hydra, flatworms, tapeworms. They have highly adaptive regenerative capabilities. When an organism is wounded, its cells are activated and the damaged tissues and organs are remodelled back to the original state. Regeneration is very prominent among metazoans.

Can African spiny mice regrow lost skin? ›

Spiny mice, Acomys spp., are one such example of a regeneration-competent mammal, regenerating several tissues of their body to full functionality after injury – rather than the reduced functionality normally observed after scarring or fibrosis.

How many days does it take for Planaria to regenerate? ›

Regeneration timelines vary by both species and the organ that is regenerated. Invertebrate head regeneration in Hydra is complete in 3 days, whereas in planaria it takes about 2 weeks (Beane et al.

What is the explanation of regeneration in Planaria? ›

Sometimes in organisms like Planaria and Hydra, their parts of the body are accidentally cut such as when its body gets entangled under rocks, in order to escape from under the rocks it cuts its body into tiny bits. These peices can grow into a complete organism. This is known as regeneration.

What are the 3 types of regeneration? ›

There are three types of regen options: passive, active and manual.

What animal has the highest regeneration? ›

The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is a Mexican aquatic salamander that is close to extinction in the wild, but in many laboratories it is the mouse of regenerative medicine, as it is the vertebrate with the greatest regenerative capacity.

What are the regeneration of mammals? ›

Complex Tissue Regeneration in Mammals Is Associated With Reduced Inflammatory Cytokines and an Influx of T Cells. While mammals tend to repair injuries, other adult vertebrates like salamanders and fish regenerate damaged tissue.

What are 2 examples of organisms that reproduce by regeneration? ›

Regeneration is a mode of reproduction in Planaria and Hydra.

What is an example of regeneration? ›

Whether all or part of a tail is lost, a lizard can regrow a new one. In terms of growing limbs, starfish can grow back their arms as needed. In fact, even if a starfish has lost four out of its five arms, it can regrow to become a full starfish again. Spiders are another example of a creature that can regrow limbs.


1. Crete spiny mouse (Acomys minous) eating whole fruit
(Michal Samuni)
2. Mammals of the World: Cairo Spiny Mouse (Acomys cahirinis)
(Obnoxious Animal Expert)
3. Happy Spiny Mouse
(Heather Land)
4. Crete spiny mouse (Acomys minous) spitting pulp
(Michal Samuni)
5. Southern African spiny mouse
6. Zoo Guest: Egyptian Spiny Mouse


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