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The role of the tail in channel passage by the sand skink, Neoseps reynoldsi

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

Thirteen sand skinks, Neoseps reynoldsi, were observed and videotaped traversing variously spaced plexiglass channels and spacings of pins to investigate locomotory patterns of a slender elongate lizard, with reduced limbs. Five individuals were recorded both before and after tail autotomy. Neoseps moves its limbs in locomotion on a flat surface; the hindlimbs participate in propulsion and their position, relative to their body, reflects the curvature of the trunk. Distance between pins, width of the plexiglass channel, and surface texture influence locomotory patterns. Individuals move more rapidly in wide channels, and movement is most irregular in channels with sandpaper floors. Whether on a plexiglass or a sandpaper floor, individuals travel more rapidly down the 2cm wide channel than the 1 cm channel. Fewer bends in the trunk in the wider channels may allow for more rapid movement. Autotomy of the tail slows movement on a plexiglass or sandpaper floor. The anterior portion of the tail contributes to the establishment of a static friction site that is jerked toward the head during locomotion, advancing the center of gravity in that direction. From the new site the trunk can be straightened by pushing against the friction site. The posterior portion of a tailless individual slides backward as the trunk is straightened, slowing their forward movement. The backward slide may reflect the lower mass and reduced static friction of the partial tail. In channels, Neoseps uses limbed concertina rather than simple concertina to generate a propulsive force. Evolutionarily, it appears that elongation of the tail and trunk did not incorporate the capacity for lateral undulation; as the curves of the trunk and tail seem preprogrammed and do not adjust to local points of contact.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Center for urban Ecology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620, USA; 2: Department of Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA


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