Title

Critical tail autotomy for reduction of maximal swimming performance in a plethodontid salamander (Desmognathus quadramaculatus)

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-1-2013

Abstract

Although tail autotomy often has an immediate survival benefit, tail loss may subsequently hinder locomotion and the ability to escape from predators. Maximal locomotor performance can be reduced after tail autotomy in the plethodontid salamander Desmognathus quadramaculatus. The loss of a large proportion of the tail length (>60%) is costly for this semiaquatic species in terms of a reduction in maximal swimming performance (i.e., burst speed is about 50% less after such autotomy). However, the minimal amount of tail loss that causes a significant reduction in swimming performance (i.e., the "critical tail autotomy" for locomotion) is unknown. I examined the effect of partial tail loss (either 15% or 30% of tail length) on burst swimming performance. After the loss of about 15% of tail length in one experimental group (N = 15), burst speeds for individuals were not significantly different from preautotomy burst speeds. After the loss of about 30% of tail length in a second experimental group (N = 15), burst speeds for individuals were significantly less than preautotomy burst speeds. These results indicate that the critical tail autotomy for reduction of maximal swimming performance is between 15% and 30% of tail length. About 50% of individuals in the field (N = 69) experienced tail autotomy and most (80%) of these individuals lost more than 30% of their tails. This study shows that tail autotomy often results in a reduction in maximal swimming performance and thus a locomotor cost for individuals of this species. Copyright 2013 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

Publication Title

Journal of Herpetology

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