NTNU Discovers the Secret of Autotomy
Birdwatchers often report their bird watching records to the database of Chinese Wild Bird Federation, but little did they know that their efforts can be a key to disclose the secret of tail regeneration. Students and teacher from the Department of Life Science solved the puzzle of caudal autotomy with the help of the long term database from Chinese Wild Bird Federation. The study was published on Proceeding of the Royal Society B.
NTNU held an academic press conference on February 9th. Dean of College of Science Chen Kwunmin greeted Professor Li Si-Min for his marvelous team and the result. Team members Ying-Rong Chen, Ying-Han Wang and the supervisor from Chinese Wild Bird Federation participated the press conference. It’s known that lizards will sacrifice its tail to survive. While the tail that’s dropped attracts predator’s attention, lizard will sneak away. Months later, the new tail will grow back.
Because of the relative lack of literature under natural conditions, the complicated association among field autotomy rate, real predation pressure, the long-term cost of tail loss, and the benefit of regeneration remains equivocal. This study is the first attempt that analyze the long term effect of the tail loss of lizard. The team of NTNU Proceeding of the Royal Society B submitted the article last fall and received great news, saying that it will be published soon.
Caudal autotomy in lizards has intrigued scientists for more than 100 years. Because of the relative lack of literature under natural conditions, the complicated association among field autotomy rate, real predation pressure, the long-term cost of tail loss, and the benefit of regeneration remains equivocal. In this study, we conducted a 7-year capture–mark–recapture (CMR) programme with a wild population of a sexually dichromatic lizard, Takydromus viridipunctatus. We used autotomy indexes and a contemporary bird census mega-dataset of four predatory birds as predictors to examine the association between tail loss and predation pressure. We further estimated the survival cost of tail loss and alleviation by regeneration under natural conditions through CMR modelling. We found that large and small avian predators affect lizard survival through the following two routes: the larger-sized cattle egret causes direct mortality while the smaller shrikes and kestrels are the major causes of autotomy. Following autotomy, the survival rate of tailless individuals over the next month was significantly lower than that of tailed individuals, especially males during the breeding season, which showed a decline of greater than 30%. This sex-related difference further demonstrated the importance of reproductive costs for males in this sexually dichromatic species. However, the risk of mortality returned to baseline after the tails were fully grown. This study indicates the benefit of tail regeneration under natural conditions, which increases our understanding of the cost–benefit dynamics of caudal autotomy and further explains the maintenance of this trait as an evolutionarily beneficial adaption to long-term predator–prey interactions.
The study Tail regeneration after autotomy revives survival: a case from a long-term monitored was published on Proceeding of the Royal Society B. The link to the article is as follows : http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/284/1847/20162538