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Abstract

Tail autotomy as a defence against predators occurs in many species of lizard. Although tail autotomy may provide an immediate benefit in terms of survival it may nevertheless be costly due to other functions of the tail. For example, tail autotomy may affect the locomotory performance of lizards during escape. We investigated the influence of tail autotomy on the escape performance of the Cape Dwarf Gecko, Lygodactylus capensis, on a vertical and a horizontal surface. Autotomized geckos were significantly slower than intact geckos during vertical escape, whereas tail autotomy did not influence the horizontal escape speed. Backward falling of the autotomized geckos on the vertical platform may explain the reduced speed. In addition, tail autotomy did not significantly affect body curvature and stride length of the geckos. The observed decrease of escape speed on a vertical platform may influence the habitat use and behaviour of these geckos. Ecological consequences resulting from tail autotomy are discussed in light of these findings.