Tail loss reduces locomotor ability but not metabolic rate in a viviparous skink, Sphenomorphus indicus

in Animal Biology
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Tail autotomy is an efficient predator escape form, but imposes locomotor costs in many lizard species. It has been hypothesized that locomotor impairment following tail autotomy results from the altered running dynamics or loss of energy available for locomotion, but there is a paucity of data available to demonstrate such effects. We evaluated the locomotor costs of tail loss in a viviparous skink, Sphenomorphus indicus, and examined whether locomotor costs were related to changes in gait characteristics and metabolic rate. Of 24 field-captured adult males with original intact tails, 12 individuals were used as experimental animals, and the remaining 12 as controls. Locomotor performance and CO2 production were measured for the experimental skinks before and after tail removal; the same parameters were measured at the same time for the control skinks. Compared with tailed skinks, the mean locomotor speed and stamina of tailless skinks was reduced by approximately 26% and 17%, respectively. At any given speed, tailless skinks had a shorter stride length for hindlimbs (but not for forelimbs) and a greater stride frequency than did tailed skinks. In S. indicus, locomotor impairment may be a result of the reduced stride length, and energetic constraints on stride frequency. We found no significant change in standard metabolic rate after the skinks underwent tail removal, which may reflect a minor effect on energy expenditure for maintenance. Although the reduction in metabolically active tissue might cause a lower metabolic rate, tail regeneration counteracted such an effect because it was energetically expensive.

Tail loss reduces locomotor ability but not metabolic rate in a viviparous skink, Sphenomorphus indicus

in Animal Biology



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    Mean values (+ SE) for locomotor speed and stamina of Sphenomorphus indicus. Open bars: measurements taken before tail removal; solid bars: measurements taken after tail removal.

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    Linear regressions of stride frequency and length for hindlimb against stride speed in Sphenomorphus indicus. Open dots and dashed line: control skinks, measurements taken before tail removal; solid dots and solid line: control skinks, measurements taken after tail removal; open squares and dashed line: experimental skinks, measurements taken before tail removal; solid squares and solid line: experimental skinks, measurements taken after tail removal.

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    Mean values (+ SE) of standard metabolic rate for Sphenomorphus indicus. Open bars: measurements taken before tail removal; solid bars: measurements taken after tail removal.


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