Lizard Tail Autotomy: Function and Energetics of Postautotomy Tail Movement in Scincella lateralis

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Science  28 Jan 1983:
Vol. 219, Issue 4583, pp. 391-393
DOI: 10.1126/science.219.4583.391


Handling of autotomized, thrashing and autotomized, exhausted tails of the lizard Scincella lateralis by mammals and snakes was tested to examine the function of postautotomy tail movement. Tail movement attracted a mammal's attack to the tail, permitting the lizard to escape and increased the time required for a snake to subdue a tail before swallowing it, increasing the lizard's escape time by 40 percent. Lactate concentrations of autotomized tails after movement were compared to those of intact tails after rest in S. lateralis, a species with a high rate of autotomized tail thrashing, and Anolis carolinensis, a species with a low rate of thrashing. Postautotomy movement increased tail lactate concentration in both species, but mean tail lactate concentration in S. lateralis was 60 percent higher than that in A. carolinensis, and a third higher than that reportedfor whole-body lactate content of the very mobile lizard Dipsosaurus dorsalis.