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Unveiling a spatial tail breakage outbreak in a lizard population

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Many ecological attributes of organisms vary spatially. This strict dependency upon space generally arises by individuals occupying places with the necessary resources and conditions for survival. For lizards, losing the tail is an evolved mechanism that allows them to escape predators or to avoid aggressive intraspecific agonistic interactions. We evaluated the spatial relation of tail loss in a population of the lizard Tropidurus montanus. Our results support the occurrence of a spatial cluster of autotomized lizards. However, we cannot relate the cluster formation to the crowding of neighbouring lizards nor to individuals’ body size. Tail loss in lizards is known to be related to predatory attacks or intraspecific aggression, and we now show that tail autotomy occurs in a non-random way regarding space, and thus is also related to the space occupied by individuals in populations.

Affiliations: 1: 1Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia de Vertebrados da Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte-MG, CEP 30535-610, Brazil ; 2: 2Computing Department, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, Ouro Preto-MG, CEP 35400-000, Brazil

*Corresponding author; e-mail:

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