Tail loss (autotomy) is common in populations of many caudate amphibians and often is assumed to be an antipredator adaptation, but few studies have examined associated costs and ecology of tail loss in natural populations of salamanders. We examined tail loss in two populations of the Georgetown Salamander (Eurycea naufragia) over a 2-yr period. The percentage of individuals with tail loss at Swinbank Spring compared to Twin Spring (both in central Texas) differed significantly (14.17 vs. 4.92%, respectively), and there was more frequent tail loss in salamanders captured in spring–summer than in fall–winter. At Swinbank Spring, larger salamanders experienced more frequent tail loss than smaller salamanders; the frequency of tail loss did not differ between gravid salamanders and nongravid salamanders at either population. Body condition, as measured by relative tail width, was lower in salamanders that had experienced tail loss at Swinbank Spring. These observations indicate that tail loss is common in populations of E. naufragia and that patterns of tail loss in this species are associated with important ecological characteristics.
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Vol. 53 • No. 1