How tails help geckos and other vertebrates make great strides

September 07, 2017

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A wagging tail is often associated with dogs' emotions, but the side-to-side motion may also help them take longer strides and move faster, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

The research was done on leopard geckos, which are ideal animals for the study of tail function because they naturally lose their tails as a defense mechanism against predators in a process called autotomy.

In the study, which was published today in Scientific Reports, the researchers compared geckos with an intact tail to geckos that had either lost their tail through autonomy or whose tail movements were restricted using a graphite rod that eliminated side-to-side motions. This process allowed researchers to account for weight differences and the shift in the center of mass associated with tail autotomy - geckos lose up to 30 percent of their body mass when they drop their tails.

The researchers found that disrupting the horizontal undulations of the geckos' tails limited the rotation of their pelvis, which ultimately decreased step length.

Titled "Lateral Movements of a Massive Tail Influence Gecko Locomotion: An Integrative Study Comparing Tail Restriction and Autotomy," the study's authors are Timothy Higham, an associate professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Kevin Jagnandan, a research associate at Chapman University who completed the study as a graduate student in Higham's lab.

Higham said the results demonstrate a role for tail undulations in geckos that is likely applicable to many terrestrial animals with tails.

"We know that tails have a number of important functions, such as fat storage in lizards and balance and stability in cats," Higham said. "This research suggests another role for tails, which is in increasing step length and ultimately speed."
-end-


University of California - Riverside

Related Predators Articles from Brightsurf:

Boo! How do mexican cavefish escape predators?
When startled, do all fish respond the same way? A few fish, like Mexican cavefish, have evolved in unique environments without any predators.

Herbivores, not predators, most at risk of extinction
One million years ago, the extinction of large-bodied plant-eaters changed the trajectory of life on Earth.

Bugs resort to several colours to protect themselves from predators
New research has revealed for the first time that shield bugs use a variety of colours throughout their lives to avoid predators.

Jellyfish contain no calories, so why do they still attract predators?
New study shows that jellyfish are an important food source for many animals.

'Matador' guppies trick predators
Trinidadian guppies behave like matadors, focusing a predator's point of attack before dodging away at the last moment, new research shows.

The European viper uses cloak-and-dazzle to escape predators
Research of the University of Jyväskylä demonstrates that the characteristic zig-zag pattern on a viper's back performs opposing functions during a predation event.

Predators help prey adapt to an uncertain future
What effect does extinction of species have on the evolution of surviving species?

To warn or to hide from predators?: New computer simulation provides answers
Some toxic animals are bright to warn predators from attacking them, and some hide the warning colors, showing them only at the very last moment when they are about to be attacked.

Dragonflies are efficient predators
A study led by the University of Turku, Finland, has found that small, fiercely predatory damselflies catch and eat hundreds of thousands of insects during a single summer -- in an area surrounding just a single pond.

Predators to spare
In 2014, a disease of epidemic proportions gripped the West Coast of the US.

Read More: Predators News and Predators Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.