Impact of tail loss on the behaviour and locomotor performance of two sympatric lampropholis skink species

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Abstract

Caudal autotomy is an anti-predator behaviour that is used by many lizard species. Although there is an immediate survival benefit, the subsequent absence of the tail may inhibit locomotor performance, alter activity and habitat use, and increase the individuals' susceptibility to future predation attempts. We used laboratory experiments to examine the impact of tail autotomy on locomotor performance, activity and basking site selection in two lizard species, the delicate skink (Lampropholis delicata) and garden skink (L. guichenoti), that occur sympatrically throughout southeastern Australia and are exposed to an identical suite of potential predators. Post-autotomy tail movement did not differ between the two Lampropholis species, although a positive relationship between the shed tail length and distance moved, but not the duration of movement, was observed. Tail autotomy resulted in a substantial decrease in sprint speed in both species (28-39%), although this impact was limited to the optimal performance temperature (30°C). Although L. delicata was more active than L. guichenoti, tail autotomy resulted in decreased activity in both species. Sheltered basking sites were preferred over open sites by both Lampropholis species, although this preference was stronger in L. delicata. Caudal autotomy did not alter the basking site preferences of either species. Thus, both Lampropholis species had similar behavioural responses to autotomy. Our study also indicates that the impact of tail loss on locomotor performance may be temperature-dependent and highlights that future studies should be conducted over a broad thermal range.

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Cromie, G. L., & Chapple, D. G. (2012). Impact of tail loss on the behaviour and locomotor performance of two sympatric lampropholis skink species. PLoS ONE, 7(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0034732

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