Effects of caudal autotomy on the locomotor performance of micrablepharus atticolus (Squamata, gymnophthalmidae)

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Caudal autotomy is a striking adaptation used by many lizard species to evade predators. Most studies to date indicate that caudal autotomy impairs lizard locomotor performance. Surprisingly, some species bearing the longest tails show negligible impacts of caudal autotomy on sprint speed. Part of this variation has been attributed to lineage effects. For the first time, we model the effects of caudal autotomy on the locomotor performance of a gymnophthalmid lizard, Micrablepharus atticolus, which has a long and bright blue tail. To improve model accuracy, we incorporated the effects of several covariates. We found that body temperature, pregnancy, mass, collection site, and the length of the regenerated portion of the tail were the most important predictors of locomotor performance. However, sprint speed was unaffected by tail loss. Apparently, the long tail of M. atticolus is more useful when using undulation amidst the leaf litter and not when using quadrupedal locomotion on a flat surface. Our findings highlight the intricate relationships among physiological, morphological, and behavioral traits. We suggest that future studies about the impacts of caudal autotomy among long-tailed lizards should consider the role of different microhabitats/substrates on locomotor performance, using laboratory conditions that closely mimic their natural environments.