SREL Reprint #2214

 

 

 

Tales of lizard tails: effects of tall autotomy on subsequent survival and growth of free-ranging hatchling Uta stansburiana

P.H. Niewiarowski, J.D. Congdon, A.E. Dunham, L.J. Vitt, and D.W. Tinkle

 

Abstract: Potential costs and benefits of tail autotomy in lizards have been inferred almost exclusively from experimental study in semi-natural enclosures and from indirect comparative evidence from natural populations. We present complementary evidence of the costs of tail autotomy to the lizard Uta stansburiana from detailed demographic study of a natural population. On initial capture, we broke the tails of a large sample of free-ranging hatchlings (560) and left the tails of another large sample (455) intact, and then followed subsequent hatchling growth and survival over a 3-year period. Surprisingly, in I out of the 3 years of study, survival of female hatchlings with broken tails exceeded that of female hatchlings with intact tails. Furthermore, no effects of tail loss on survivorship were detected for male hatchlings. However, in 2 years when recaptures were very frequent (1961, 1962), growth rates of hatchlings with broken tails were significantly slower than those of their counterparts with intact tails. We discuss our results in the broader context of estimating the relative costs and benefits of tail autotomy in natural populations, and suggest that long-term demographic studies will provide the best opportunity to assess realized fitness costs and benefits with minimum bias. We also describe how experimentally induced tail autotomy can be used as a technique to complement experimental manipulation of reproductive investment in the study of life-history trade-offs.

SREL Reprint #2214

Niewiarowski, P.H., J.D. Congdon, A.E. Dunham, L.J. Vitt, and D.W. Tinkle. 1997. Tales of lizard tails: effects of tail autotomy on subsequent survival and growth of free-ranging hatchling Uta stansburiana. Canadian Journal of Zoology 75:542-548.

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