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Data from: Cut your losses: self-amputation of injured limbs increases survival

Cite this dataset

Emberts, Zachary; Miller, Christine W.; Kiehl, Daniel; St. Mary, Colette M. (2017). Data from: Cut your losses: self-amputation of injured limbs increases survival [Dataset]. Dryad.


Autotomy, self-induced limb loss, is an extreme trait observed throughout the animal kingdom; lizards drop their tails, crickets release their legs, and crabs drop their claws. These repeated evolutionary origins suggest that autotomy is adaptive. Yet, we do not have a firm understanding of the selective pressures that promote and maintain this extreme trait. Although multiple adaptive hypotheses exist, research has generally focused on autotomy’s adaptive value as a form of predator escape. However, autotomy could also be selected to reduce the cost of an injured limb, which we investigate here. Previously, this alternative hypothesis has been challenging to directly test because when an injury occurs on an autotomizable limb, that limb is almost always dropped (i.e., autotomy is behaviorally fixed within populations). Recently, however, we have identified a species, Narnia femorata (Insecta: Hemiptera: Coreidae), where some individuals autotomize limbs in response to injury, but some do not. This natural variation allowed us to investigate both the survival costs of retaining an injured limb and the benefits of autotomizing it. In this study, we find a positive association between autotomizing injured limbs and survival, thereby quantifying a new and likely widespread benefit of autotomy—reducing the cost of injury.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1553100 and IOS-0926855