Science reporter, BBC News
A gecko's tail is as crucial to the animal's acrobatic ability as its "sticky" feet, scientists report.
High-speed video reveals that the creature uses its tail as a "fifth leg" to prevent it from slipping as it climbs wet surfaces.
And the footage shows that if it does fall, a flick of the tail is all it takes for the gecko to land feet-down.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, said the discovery could aid the development of improved climbing robots and unmanned gliding vehicles.
The gecko is one of nature's best climbers - its feet are covered with millions of microscopic hairs that allow it to effortlessly cling to smooth surfaces.
But while the reptile's hairy toes have been extensively studied, little has been known until now about the role of the gecko's tail.
Bob Full, director of UC Berkeley's new Center for Interdisciplinary Bio-inspiration in Education and Research, and an author on the PNAS paper, said: "Initially, we thought the gecko's climbing ability was all in the feet, but now we know that this is clearly not true and the tail is critical."
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