Prey must balance the conflicting demands of foraging and defensive behavior. Foraging under the threat of predation may be further complicated among species that engage in caudal autotomy, the loss of a portion of the tail at preformed breakage planes, because the tail may serve as an important energy storage organ and contribute to motility, culminating in a trade-off between foraging and predator avoidance. As a result of the advantages conferred by the presence of a tail, individuals that have recently undergone autotomy may be more motivated to forage despite elevated levels of threat indicated by predator kairomones. We used a full factorial design to evaluate the combined effects of body size, exposure to predator kairomones, and experience with autotomy on the latency to strike at Drosophila prey, number of strikes, and prey captured per strike by Allegheny Mountain dusky salamanders (Desmognathus ochrophaeus). In our study, caudal autotomy was the only significant main effect and influenced both the latency to attack prey and the number of strikes attempted. In terms of latency to attack prey, there was a significant interaction between body size and autotomy such that "small" salamanders (≤3.2 cm SVL) without tails delayed their foraging behavior. In terms of the number of strikes toward prey, there was a significant interaction between autotomy and exposure to predator kairomones such that individuals with intact tails exhibited a greater number of strikes, with the exception of the "large" (>3.2 cm SVL) salamanders, which performed fewer strikes when exposed to the snake kairomones. There was no significant effect on foraging efficiency, although the trend in the data suggests that autotomized individuals forage more efficiently. This study was designed to evaluate the confluence of factors related to size, caudal autotomy, and exposure to stimuli from predators and hints at the magnitude of caudal autotomy on antipredator decision- making. Our data suggest that despite the importance of tail tissue for energy storage, locomotion, and mating, salamanders without tails are cautious when foraging under elevated risk.
Gildemeister, Emilia A.R.; Payette, Wesley I.; and Sullivan, Aaron M., "Effects of Size, Caudal Autotomy, and Predator Kairomones on the Foraging Behavior of Alleghany Mountain Dusky Salamanders (Desmognathus ochrophaeus)" (2017). Faculty Publications - Department of Biological & Molecular Science. 143.