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.
An experimental analysis of the role of the tail in attaining high running speed in Cnemidophorus sexlineatus (Reptilia: Squamata: Lacertilia).
Shifted balance of risk and cost autotomy affects use of cover, escape, activity, and foraging in the keeled earless lizard (Holbrookia propinque).
Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol.54179-187.