|SREL Reprint #1011|
Blue Tails and Autotomy: Enhancement of Predation Avoidance in Juvenile Skinks
E. Cooper, Jr., & Laurie J. Vitt
Blue tail coloration in
hatchling skinks (Eumeces fasciatus and E. laticeps)
appears to be an antipredatory adaption that distracts attention away from the
body to the tail. The tail itself serves as a decoy that may be autotomized as
a final defense against capture. The
effectiveness of intact tails in deflecting attacks from the body was 50%
against scarlet kingsnakes in the experimental conditions used.
Brightness rather than hue presumably accounts for the higher attack
frequency on blue than black tails in this study, but the blue color may have
evolved in response to avian predation.
without ill effects by several predators allows rejection of the hypothesis that
the blue tail is aposematic for the predators tested.
The hypothesis that blue tails provide stimuli inhibiting aggression or
predation by adult male conspecifics is untenable for E. laticeps
because adult males readily eat intact hatchlings.
Although this study provides no statistical evidence that blue tail
coloration inhibits attach by female E. laticeps on hatchlings,
the trend of predation rates on blue- and black-tailed hatchlings is in the
direction predicted for inhibition.
SREL Reprint #1011
Cooper, W.E., Jr. and
L.J. Vitt. 1985. Blue tails and
autonomy: enhancement of predation avoidance in juvenile
skinks. Zeitschrift fuer Tierpsychologie 70:265-276.