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Data from: Unwrapping broken tails: Biological and environmental correlates of predation pressure in limbless reptiles

Citation

Moura, Mario R. et al. (2022), Data from: Unwrapping broken tails: Biological and environmental correlates of predation pressure in limbless reptiles, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.83bk3j9v7

Abstract

Studying species interactions in nature often requires elaborate logistics and intense fieldwork. The difficulties in such task might hinder our ability to answer questions on how biotic interactions change with the environment. Fortunately, a workaround to this problem lies within scientific collections. For some animals, the inspection of preserved specimens can reveal the scars of past antagonistic encounters, such as predation attempts. A common defensive behaviour that leaves scars on animals is autotomy, the loss of a body appendage to escape predation. By knowing the collection site of preserved specimens, it is possible to assess the influence of organismal biology and the surrounding environment in the occurrence of autotomy. We produced data on tail loss for 8,189 preserved specimens of 33 snake and 11 amphisbaenian species to investigate biological and environmental correlates of autotomy in reptiles. We applied generalized linear mixed effect models to evaluate whether body size, sex, life-stage, habitat use, activity pattern, biome, tropicality, temperature, and precipitation affect the probability of tail loss in limbless reptiles. We observed autotomy in 23.6% of examined specimens, with 18.7% of amphisbaenian and 33.4% of snake specimens showing tail loss. Probability of tail loss did not differ between snakes and amphisbaenians, but it was higher among large-sized specimens, particularly in adults and females. Chance of tail loss was higher for diurnal and arboreal species, and among specimens collected in warmer regions, but it was unaffected by biome, precipitation, and tropicality. Autotomy in limbless reptiles was affected by size-dependent factors that interplay with ontogeny and sexual dimorphism, although size-independent effects of life-stage and sex also shaped behavioural responses to predators. The increase in probability of tail loss with verticality and diurnality suggests a risk-balance mechanism between species habitat use and activity pattern. Although autotomy is more likely in warmer regions, it seems unrelated to seasonal differences in snakes and amphisbaenians activity. Our findings reveal several processes related to predator-prey interactions involving limbless reptiles, demonstrating the importance of scientific collections to unveil ecological mechanisms at different spatio-temporal scales.

Methods

We examined a total of 8,847 preserved specimens of 58 snake and 22 amphisbaenian species, deposited in 61 collections from 11 countries (when not specified, acronyms follow Sabaj, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1643/ASIHCODONS2020): Argentina: FML. Brazil: AAGARDA (Adrian A. Garda, field series, transferred to CHUFPB), CEPB, CHUFPB, CHUFPI, CHUFS, CHUFSC, CHUNB, CRIB (Coleção de Referência, Instituto Butantan), CZDP (Coleção Zoológica do Delta do Parnaíba), CZGB, FUNED, IBSP, IEPA, INPA, LZV, MBML, MCN, MCNR, MCP, MHNCI, MNRJ, MPEG, MTR (Miguel Trefaut Rodrigues, field series [to be transferred to MZUSP]), MZUESC, MZUFV, MZUSP, UFACF, UFC, UFG, UFMG-R, UFMT-R, UFPE, UFRGS, UFRN, ULBRA-TO (Centro Universitário Luterano de Palmas, Universidade Luterana do Brasil), URCA, ZUEC, ZUFMS, ZUFSM. Colombia: IAvH-R, ICN, MLS, MPUJ, UIS-R. Ecuador: MZUA, QCAZ. France: MNHN. Germany: ZSM. Paraguay: CZCEN, CZPLT, IIBP, MNHNP. Spain: DBAG. United Kingdom: NHMUK. Uruguay: MHMN, ZVC-R. USA: AMNH, CAS, FMNH, USNM.

After removing species with low sample size, the dataset used in the analyses included 8,189 preserved specimens of 33 snake and 11 amphisbaenian species. All analyses in this study were performed in the software R v. 4.2.0.

Usage Notes

The R-script is commented by the authors and contains all code used to manipulate and analyse data tables, and create the figures in the manuscript. Seven files are provided:

1. Moura_et_al_JAE_2022.R: commented R script used to run the analyses.

2. CompiledDataCleanned.txt: raw data on 8,847 specimens examined on this study (metadata informed within the above-mentioned R script).

3. ConsensusTree_43taxa.Rdata: trimmed consensus phylogeny for the species used in this study, derived from Tonini et al. (2016, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.db005).

4. Subset100Trees_43taxa.Rdata: subset of 100 trimmed phylogenies including the species used in this study, derived from Tonini et al. (2016, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.db005).

5. GLMM_output_group_StdSVL.Rdata: output files for the Generalised Linear Mixed Effect models (GLMM) appliled in this study (i.e., main text results).

6. GLMM_output_StdSVL.Rdata: output files for the GLMM appliled in this study, but using a different rescaling for one predictor (body size).

7. PhyloCorrelogram.Rdata: output of average phylogenetic correlograms for GLMM residuals across the subset of 100 trimmed phylogenies.

Funding

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: AMS #1633797

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 88887.200737/2018

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 88887.201311/2018

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 307135/2020-9

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 142961/2019-1

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 302611/2018-5

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: SinBiose #152411/2020-8

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: SinBiose #151224/2021-8

Minciencias and Instituto Nacional de Salud, Colombia, Award: 087-2021

Minciencias and Instituto Nacional de Salud, Colombia, Award: FEI-INS #0003-2021

Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Paraguay