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J Exp Biol. 2002 May;205(Pt 10):1495-506.

Feeding patterns of Chelus fimbriatus (Pleurodira: Chelidae).

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Department of Comparative Anatomy and Morphology, Institute of Zoology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


The kinematics of feeding on fish have been studied in the aquatic feeding specialist Chelus fimbriatus, the fringed turtle, to provide a basic description of complete feeding cycles. Anatomical findings supplement the kinematic results. High-speed video (500 frames x s(-1)) recordings and X-ray film (150 frames x s(-1)) are used to analyse the kinematic variables characterizing head, hyoid, oesophageal and prey movements. The high velocities, especially of mouth opening, the forward thrust of the head and suction of the prey, are unique among turtles and comparable with those of aquatic salamanders and certain fishes (unidirectional feeders, in contrast to Chelus fimbriatus). The expandability of the pharynx and the anterior half of the oesophagus enables a specific type of unidirectional flow, at least during the early stages of the feeding cycle. This considerably improves the feeding performance compared with that of other aquatic turtles. The streamlined shape of the skull, the large hyoid apparatus, the highly reduced tongue and the extremely distensible oesophagus support the kinematics to a great extent, making C. fimbriatus a specialized suction feeder that can be regarded as one endpoint in the feeding evolution of aquatic reptiles.

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