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J Exp Biol. 2000 May;203(Pt 9):1415-23.

Cranial kinesis in geckoes: functional implications.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Antwerp (UIA), Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerp, Belgium.


Although it is generally assumed that cranial kinesis is a plesiomorphic characteristic in squamates, experimental data tend to contradict this hypothesis. In particular, coupled kinesis (i.e. streptostyly and mesokinesis) presumably arose independently in only a limited number of highly specialised groups. In this study, we investigated cranial kinesis in one of the most specialised of these groups: geckoes. On the basis of cineradiographic and electromyographic data, the fast opening and the slow closing/power stroke phases were modelled to elucidate possible functions of the observed kinesis. The results of these analyses show that the retraction of the muzzle unit during crushing is a self-reinforcing system that increases bite force and reduces the joint forces; the active protraction of the kinetic system during jaw opening, in contrast, enhances opening speed through the coupling of the intracranial units. It can be argued that cranial kinesis in geckoes is probably not an adaptive trait as such but, instead, a consequence of the 'Bauplan' of the cranial system in these animals. Presumably as a result of constructional constraints on the size of the jaw musculature and eyes, the supratemporal and postorbital bars were lost, which resulted in enormous mobility in the skull. To counteract the potential negative factors associated with this (decrease in bite force, skull damage), the kinetic system may have become coupled, and thus functional.

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