Guohua DING,Tianbao FU,Zongshi ZHOU and Xiang JI.Tail Autotomy Does Not Increase Locomotor Costs in the Oriental Leaf-toed Gecko Hemidactylus bowringii[J].Asian Herpetological Research(AHR),2012,3(2):141-146.[doi:10.3724/SP.J.1245.2012.00141]
Click Copy

Tail Autotomy Does Not Increase Locomotor Costs in the Oriental Leaf-toed Gecko Hemidactylus bowringii
Share To:

Asian Herpetological Research[ISSN:2095-0357/CN:51-1735/Q]

2012 VoI.3 No.2
Research Field:
Original Article
Publishing date:


Tail Autotomy Does Not Increase Locomotor Costs in the Oriental Leaf-toed Gecko Hemidactylus bowringii
Guohua DING Tianbao FU Zongshi ZHOU and Xiang JI*
Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Biodiversity and Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210046, Jiangsu, China
Gekkonidae Hemidactylus bowringii tail autotomy locomotor performance cost of tail autotomy
Tail autotomy is a defense mechanism used by many lizards to evade predators, but it entails costs. We used the oriental leaf-toed gecko Hemidactylus bowringii as a model animal to evaluate locomotor costs of tail autotomy. We removed the tail about 5 mm from the tail base from each of the experimental geckos (adult males) initially having intact tails. Tailless experimental geckos and tailed control geckos were measured for overall speed and sprint speed in both vertical and horizontal directions. Overall speed and sprint speed did not differ between tailless and tailed geckos. The influence of locomotor direction on both overall speed and sprint speed was significant, with horizontal speed being greater than vertical speed. The interaction between tail condition and locomotor direction was not significant in overall speed, but was significant in sprint speed. Tailless geckos had faster vertical sprint speed than the tailed individuals. Of the 130 field-caught adults, 59 had previously lost their tails, with most (about 61%) of them shedding their tails near the tail base. Neither the proportion of geckos with tail autotomy nor the frequency distribution of locations of the tail break differed between the sexes. Our data show that tail loss of H. bowringii occurs frequently in nature. However, tail loss does not incur locomotor costs in this gecko.


Arnold E. N. 1984. Evolutionary aspects of tail shedding in lizards and their relatives. J Nat Hist, 18: 127–169
Arnold E. N. 1988. Caudal autotomy as a defence. In Gans C., Huey R. B., Alan R. (Eds.), Biology of the Reptilia, Vol. 16. New York: Liss Inc, 235–273
Bateman P. W., Fleming P. A. 2009. To cut a long tail short: A review of lizard caudal autotomy studies carried out over the last 20 years. J Zool, 277: 1–14
Bellairs A. A., Bryant S. V. 1985. Autotomy and regeneration in reptiles. In Gans C., Huey R. B. (Eds.), Biology of the Reptilia, Vol. 15. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 301–410
Brown R. M., Taylor D. H., Gist D. H. 1995. Effect of caudal autotomy on locomotor performance of wall lizards (Podarcis muralis). J Herpetol, 29: 98–105
Chapple D. G., Swain R. 2002. Effect of caudal autotomy on locomotor performance in a viviparous skink, Niveoscincus metallicus. Funct Ecol, 16: 817–825
Chapple D. G., McCoull C. J., Swain R. 2004. Effect of tail loss on sprint speed and growth in newborn skinks, Niveoscincus metallicus. J Herpetol, 38: 137–140
Clause A. R., Capaldi E. A. 2006. Caudal autotomy and regeneration in lizards. J Exp Zool A, 305: 965–973
Congdon J. D., Vitt L. J., King W. W. 1974. Geckos: Adaptive significance and energetics of tail autotomy. Science, 184: 379–1380
Cooper W. E. 2003. Shifted balance of risk and cost after autotomy affects use of cover, escape, activity, and foraging in the keeled earless lizard (Holbrookia propinqua). Behav Ecol Sociobiol, 54: 179–187
Daniels C. B. 1983. Running: An escape strategy enhanced by autotomy. Herpetologica, 39: 162–165
Daniels C. B. 1985. The effect of tail autotomy on the exercise capacity of the water skink, Sphenomorphus quoyii. Copeia, 4: 1074–1077
Formanowicz D. R., Brodie E. D., Bradley P. J. 1990. Behavioural compensation for tail loss in the ground skink, Scincella lateralis. Anim Behav, 40: 782–784
Gillis G. B., Bonvini L. A., Irschick D. J. 2009. Losing stability: Tail loss and jumping in the arboreal lizard Anolis carolinensis. J Exp Biol, 212: 604–609
Goodman R. M. 2006. Effects of tail loss on growth and sprint speed of juvenile Eumeces fasciatus (Scincidae). J Herpetol, 40: 99–102
Huey R. B., Dunham A. E., Overall K. L., Newman R. A. 1990. Variation in locomotor performance in demographically known populations of the lizard Sceloporus merriami. Physiol Zool, 63: 845–872
Kelehear C., Webb J. K. 2006. Effects of tail autotomy on anti-predator behavior and locomotor performance in a nocturnal gecko. Copeia, 2006: 803–809
Lin Z. H., Ji X. 2005. Partial tail loss has no severe effects on energy stores and locomotor performance in a lacertid lizard, Takydromus septentrionalis. J Comp Physiol B, 175: 567?573
Lin Z. H., Qu Y. F., Ji X. 2006. Energetic and locomotor costs of tail loss in the Chinese skink, Eumeces chinensis. Comp Biochem Physiol A, 143: 508?513
Lu H. L., Ding G. H., Ding P., Ji X. 2010. Tail autotomy plays no important role in influencing locomotor performance and anti-predator behavior in a cursorial gecko. Ethology, 116: 627?634
Maginnis T. L. 2006. The costs of autotomy and regeneration in animals: A review and framework for future research. Behav Ecol, 17: 857–872
Martín J., Avery R. A. 1998. Effects of tail loss on the movement patterns of the lizard, Psammodromus algirus. Funct Ecol, 12: 794–802
Martín J., Salvador A. 1992. Tail loss consequences on habitat use by the Iberian rock lizard, Lacerta monticola. Oikos, 65: 328–333
Martín J., Salvador A. 1993. Tail loss and foraging tactics of the Iberian rock lizard Lacerta monticola. Oikos, 66: 318–324
McConnachie S., Whiting M. J. 2003. Costs associated with tail autotomy in an ambush foraging lizard, Cordylus melanotus melanotus. Afr Zool, 38: 57–65
Medger K., Verburgt L., Bateman P. W. 2008. The influence of tail autotomy on the escape response of the cape dwarf gecko, Lygodactylus capensis. Ethology, 114: 42–52
Salvador A., Mart?ín J., López P. 1995. Tail loss reduces home range size and access to females in male lizards, Psammodromus algirus. Behav Ecol, 6: 382–387
Shine R. 2003. Locomotor speeds of gravid lizards: placing ‘costs of reproduction’ within an ecological context. Funct Ecol, 17: 526–533.
Sun Y. Y., Song Y., Ji X. 2007. Energetic costs of tail loss in the brown forest skink, Sphenomorphus indicus. In Ji X. (Ed.), Herpetologica Sinica, Vol. 11. Nanjing: Southeastern University Press, 107–115
Sun Y. Y., Yang J., Ji X. 2009. Many-lined sun skinks (Mabuya multifasciata) do not compensate for the costs of tail loss by increasing feeding rate or digestive efficiency. J Exp Zool A, 311: 125–133
Vitt L. J., Congdon J. D., Dickson N. A. 1977. Adaptive strategies and energetics of tail autotomy in lizards. Ecology, 58: 326–337
Xu D. D., An H., Lu H. L., Ji X. 2007. Selected body temperature, thermal tolerance and the thermal dependence of food assimilation in the Bowring’s gecko Hemidactylus bowringii. Acta Zool Sin, 35: 959–965
Xu D. D., Ji X. 2007. Sexual dimorphism, female reproduction and egg incubation in he oriental leaf-toed gecko (Hemidactylus bowringii) from southern China. Zoology, 110: 20–27
Xu D. D., Ji X., Lu H. L., Lin Z. H. 2009. Effects of body temperature, feeding, caudal autotomy and reproductive condition on locomotor performance in the oriental leaf-toed gecko, (Hemidactylus bowringii). Acta Ecol Sin, 29: 1745–1755
Xu D. D., Li F. M., Lu H. L. 2006. Influence of feeding on metabolic rate in the Bowring’s gecko, Hemidactylus bowringii. Sichuan J Zool, 25: 369–371
Zhou K. Y., Liu Y. Z. 1999. Gekkonidae. In Zhao E. M., Zhao K. T., Zhou K. Y. (Eds.), Fauna Sinica, Reptilia, Vol. 12 (Squamata: Lacertilia). Beijing: Science Press, 15–76
Zhang Q. J., Chen Y. L., Gao J. M., Geng B. R. 2000. Female reproductive cycle of the Bowring’s gecko Hemidacylus bowringii. J Fujian Normal Univ, 16: 93–96
Zhang Q. J., Xiao Y. J., Chen Y. L., Gao J. M. 1999. Male reproductive cycle of the Bowring’s gecko (Hemidacylus bowringii). Chin J Appl Environ Biol, 5: 589–592
Zhao Q., Wang Z., Liu L. L., Zhao W. G., Ji X. 2008. Selected body temperature, surface activity and food intake in tailed versus tailless Mongolian racerunners Eremias argus from three populations. Acta Zool Sin, 54: 60–66


Last Update: 2016-03-15