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Brain Behav Evol. 1992;40(4):182-96.

Morphology, behavior, and evolution: comparative kinematics of aquatic feeding in salamanders.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine 92717.


The kinematics of aquatic prey capture were studied in species representing six salamander families (Ambystomatidae, Amphiumidae, Cryptobranchidae, Dicamptodontidae, Proteidae, and Sirenidae) to test the hypothesis that the process of aquatic prey capture is similar in these families. Seven variables were digitized from high-speed video records of prey capture, and a nested analysis of variance was performed to test for both significant individual within taxon and among taxa effects. The time-to-peak head angle and gape variables showed no taxon effect, while the other five variables exhibited highly significant differences among taxa. Cryptobranchus and Siren showed the most divergent kinematic pattern from the other taxa in a multivariate analysis of all variables, while Ambystoma, Dicamptodon, and Amphiuma tended to have similar overall patterns of head movement. These results show that kinematic patterns during aquatic feeding are not conserved across salamander taxa, and that phylogenetic differentiation in head morphology has been accompanied by novelties in feeding function. The feeding mechanisms of Cryptobranchus and Amphiuma have a bidirectional hydrodynamic design with kinematic correlates that are similar to kinematic characteristics of aquatic feeding in turtles and transformed ambystomatid salamanders. A general framework is presented as an aid to understanding the interrelationships among muscle activity patterns, morphology, and behavior (kinematic patterns). By considering the distribution of taxa in three multivariate spaces, corresponding to three of the levels at which one might analyze a behavior (kinematics, morphology, and motor pattern), it is possible to identify patterns of correspondence among the levels, which aid in understanding the evolution of behavior.

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