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J Exp Zool. 1997 Apr 15;277(6):417-24.

Evolution of forelimb movement patterns for prey manipulation in anurans.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff 86011-5640, USA.


Unlike other amphibians, frogs often use their forelimbs to capture and transport prey. In the present study, high-speed videography was used to observe forelimb use during feeding in a diverse group of anurans in order to determine the evolution of forelimb movement patterns among anuran taxa. Data were gathered from 488 individuals representing 104 species, 55 genera, and 16 families. Five distinct behavior patterns were identified: scooping entails using the back of the hand to push prey into the mouth; wiping involves the use of the palm of the hand to push prey, protruding laterally from the mouth, toward the midline; during prey stretching, one end of the prey is held in a stationary position by the hands while the other end is pulled upward by the jaws; in grasping, the palms face the midline or the substrate as the fingers are wrapped around the prey; grasping with wrist rotation is similar to grasping, but the wrists rotate inward as the hands grasp the prey so that the palms face the mouth. The distribution of these behavior patterns was mapped onto the most recent phylogenetic hypothesis for anurans. Maximum parsimony analyses suggest that scooping and wiping are primitive and have been retained by many frog lineages. Wiping was not observed in the pipids, which are the only anurans that lack tongues and use hydraulic transport. Prey stretching appears to have evolved several times in unrelated taxa. Grasping and grasping with wrist rotation appear to have evolved only in arboreal groups, suggesting that the ability to climb is a preadaptation for the ability to grasp prey. Several species were observed using grasping motions in place of the tongue to capture prey.

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