ABSTRACT

Amongst tetrapods, mechanoreceptors on the feet establish a sense of body placement and help to facilitate posture and biomechanics. Mechanoreceptors are necessary for stabilizing the body while navigating through changing terrains or responding to a sudden change in body mass and orientation. Lizards such as the leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) employ autotomy – a voluntary detachment of a portion of the tail – to escape predation. Tail autotomy represents a natural form of significant (and localized) mass loss. Semmes–Weinstein monofilaments were used to investigate the effect of tail autotomy (and subsequent tail regeneration) on tactile sensitivity of each appendage of the leopard gecko. Prior to autotomy, we identified site-specific differences in tactile sensitivity across the ventral surfaces of the hindlimbs, forelimbs and tail. Repeated monofilament testing of both control (tail-intact) and tail-loss geckos had a significant sensitization effect (i.e. decrease in tactile threshold, maintained over time) in all regions of interest except the palmar surfaces of the forelimbs in post-autotomy geckos, compared with baseline testing. Although the regenerated tail is not an exact replica of the original, tactile sensitivity is shown to be effectively restored at this site. Re-establishment of tactile sensitivity on the ventral surface of the regenerate tail points towards a (continued) role in predator detection.

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