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Lacking sensory (rather than locomotive) legs affects locomotion but not food detection in the harvestman Holmbergiana weyenberghi

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The ability to release a leg when forced by predators or during agonistic interactions is widespread and frequent in arthropods. Despite immediate benefits, losing legs may affect locomotion, sensory performance, reproduction, and fitness. The costs of autospasy in arachnids have been scarcely addressed. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that the number and type of self-amputated legs (sensory or locomotive) affect locomotion and food detection speeds in the harvestman Holmbergiana weyenberghi (Holmberg, 1876) (Sclerosomatidae). With field surveys in a subtropical forest in Uruguay we found that 35% of individuals lacked at least one leg, and sensory legs (second pair) were the most frequently lost. In an indoor setup, we found that individuals missing one sensory leg walked and climbed a trunk slower than individuals lacking a locomotive leg (first, third, or fourth pair), or compared with those with eight legs. Lacking legs did not affect the food detection speed. Additionally, larger individuals with eight legs had greater walking and climbing speeds. Therefore, losing sensory legs affects locomotion in these harvestmen and may confer costs in orientation, balance, and substrate recognition. Finally, we compared our results with the different patterns reported for the effect of autospacy in other harvestman species.

Keywords: Opiliones; Sclerosomatidae; Uruguay; autospasie; autospasy; climbing speed; daddy long-legs; faucheurs; opilions; vitesse de marche; vitesse d’escalade; walking speed

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Escuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica, Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, Postal Code 2060, San Pedro de Montes de Oca, San José, Costa Rica. 2: Laboratorio de Etología, Ecología y Evolución, Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, Avenida Italia 3318, Postal Code 11600, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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