Effect of caudal autotomy on locomotor performance in a viviparous skink, Niveoscincus metallicus

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1. Tail loss has repeatedly been associated with the impairment of locomotor performance in lizards. However, although the immediate impact of tail loss may be severe, most previous studies have failed to establish how long such locomotory costs persist. 2. We investigated both the short-term (24-36 h) and long-term (4 and 12 weeks) consequences of tail loss on locomotor performance in a viviparous ground-dwelling skink, Niveoscincus metallicus (O'Shaughnessy 1874). Sprint speed, climbing ability and stamina were measured as performance variables. The locomotor performance of both adult males and pregnant females were tested during the study. 3. Male and female lizards responded differently to tail loss, although the immediate impact of autotomy on performance was generally minor. In males caudal autotomy imposed a significant immediate impact on sprint speed, while in females stamina was reduced immediately after autotomy. 4. Females regenerated their tails significantly faster than males. Recovery of locomotor performance over the 3-month duration of the study was observed in females (for endurance capacity) but not males (for sprint speed). 5. Overall, the impact of tail loss on locomotor performance was generally limited or short-lived in N. metallicus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-825
Number of pages9
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost of reproduction
  • Scincidae
  • Tail loss
  • Tail regeneration

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