Another potential cost of tail autotomy: tail loss may result in high ectoparasite loads in Sceloporus lizards

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Tail autotomy is a common phenomenon in lizards that increases the chances of immediate survival during a predation event or agonistic encounter. However, despite short-term benefits, tail regeneration may also impose costs. Several studies have demonstrated that tail loss compromises other vital functions such as lipid storage, reproduction, and the immune system. Several lizard species are hosts of mites and ticks. Here we evaluated in three lizard species from the genus Sceloporus, whether individuals that have lost their tails and invested energy in tail regeneration are more susceptible to ectoparasites. Using a multimodel inference framework, we examined if tail loss and regeneration, as well as sex, body condition, and season (dry or rainy) predict ectoparasite load. Our results indicate that investing energy and resources in tail regeneration compromises defence against ectoparasites. These costs differed between sexes and among species. Overall, ectoparasite load increases during the rainy season and is on average higher in males. In S. grammicus, during the rainy season, males with regenerated tails and in poor body condition had more ectoparasites than males with intact tails in good body condition. In S. megalepidurus, we observed the same effect during the rainy season but in females rather than males. In S. torquatus, we found no effect of tail loss on ectoparasite load. We discuss the possibility that differences observed among species reflect differences in both species-specific physiological trade-offs and local environmental conditions.

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Another potential cost of tail autotomy: tail loss may result in high ectoparasite loads in Sceloporus lizards

in Amphibia-Reptilia



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    Body condition (±95% confidence interval) according to sex and season for Sceloporus grammicus (a), S. megalepidurus (b) and S. torquatus (c). We estimated body condition as the residuals from the regression between body mass and snout-vent length. Numbers above bars indicate sample size in each group.

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    Relationships between ectoparasite load and body condition (estimated as residuals from the regression between body mass and snout-vent length) for males and females of three lizard species from the genus Sceloporus. Data are shown separately for the dry and rainy seasons. Asterisks indicate cases in which the model that includes an effect of body condition on mite load provided a better fit (according to AICc) compared to the intercept-only (null) model.

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    The six best-fitting models according to AICc for each lizard species. In addition, we show the relative support for each model (w) and the number of parameters in each model. Models are listed according to their fit to the data, from strongest to weakest. We highlight in bold the model with strongest support. In all cases, the response variable was the number of mites on individual lizards. In models, + indicates main effects and × indicates interaction.

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    Ectoparasite load (±95% confidence interval) in male and female Sceloporus grammicus in poor condition (a) and good condition (b), according to season and tail status. Numbers above bars indicate sample size in each group. The effect of tail regeneration was observed in males during the rainy season. Males in poor condition with a regenerated tail (solid arrow) had more mites than males in good condition with intact tails (dashed arrow).

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    Ectoparasite load (±95% confidence interval) in male and female Sceloporus megalepidurus in poor condition (a) and good condition (b), according to season and tail status. Numbers above bars indicate sample size in each group. The effect of tail regeneration was observed in females during the rainy season. Females in poor condition with a regenerated tail (solid arrow) had more mites than females in good condition with intact tails (dashed arrow).

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    Relationships between mite load and length of regenerated tail for poor-condition males of Sceloporus grammicus during the rainy season (a) and poor-condition females of S. megalepidurus during the rainy season (b). The null (intercept-only) model provided the best fit for males of S. grammicus (a), whereas the model including a slope for this relationship provided similar fit as the null model for females of S. megalepidurus (b).

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    Ectoparasite load (±95% confidence interval) in male and female Sceloporus torquatus according to season. Numbers above bars indicate sample size in each group.


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