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A New Angle on Clinging in Geckos: Incline, Not Substrate, Triggers the Deployment of the Adhesive System

Anthony P. Russell and Timothy E. Higham
Proceedings: Biological Sciences
Vol. 276, No. 1673 (Oct. 22, 2009), pp. 3705-3709
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30244171
Page Count: 5
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A New Angle on Clinging in Geckos: Incline, Not Substrate, Triggers the Deployment of the Adhesive System
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Abstract

Lizards commonly climb in complex three-dimensional habitats, and gekkotans are particularly adept at doing this by using an intricate adhesive system involving setae on the ventral surface of their digits. However, it is not clear whether geckos always deploy their adhesive system, given that doing so may result in decreased (i.e. reduction in speed) locomotor performance. Here, we investigate circumstances under which the adhesive apparatus of clinging geckos becomes operative, and examine the potential trade-offs between speed and clinging. We quantify locomotor kinematics of a gecko with adhesive capabilities (Tarentola mauritanica) and one without (Eublepharis macularius). Whereas, somewhat unusually, E. macularius did not suffer a decrease in locomotor performance with an increase in incline, T. mauritanica exhibited a significant decrease in speed between the level and a 10° incline. We demonstrate that this results from the combined influence of slope and the deployment of the adhesive system. All individuals kept their digits hyperextended on the level, but three of the six individuals deployed their adhesive system on the 10° incline, and they exhibited the greatest decrease in velocity. The deployment of the adhesive system was dependent on incline, not surface texture (600 grit sandpaper and Plexiglas), despite slippage occurring on the level Plexiglas substrate. Our results highlight the type of sensory feedback (gravity) necessary for deployment of the adhesive system, and the trade-offs associated with adhesion.

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