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J Morphol. 1997 Aug;233(2):113-25.

Kinematics and functional morphology of aquatic feeding in Australian snake-necked turtles (Pleurodira;Chelodina).

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Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Belgium.


Head kinematics during aquatic feeding of the Australian long-necked turtle (Chelodina) were studied by means of high speed video recordings. Buccal expansion was assessed by calculation of elliptical cross-sectional surfaces. Further, displacements of head, carapace, and prey in the earth bound frame, of the prey relative to the center of the gape, and of the head relative to the carapace were determined. Rates of change (velocities) of all these variables were calculated. These data are combined with information on the osteology and myology of the head. The robust development of the large hyobranchial apparatus, the massive intercornuatus muscle, and the presence of the branchiosquamosus muscle were related to aquatic feeding skills. Head kinematics are variable in amplitude and relative timing, but proceed always in a rostrocaudal sequence. According to their effect on the prey, two components are distinguished in the process of expansion. The first compensates for head/body movements (compensatory suction). The second causes distinct acceleration of water and prey (inertial suction). The latter component is mainly driven by the abduction of the second branchial arch. In spite of largely different structural solutions, optimal feeding conditions as deduced for suction in feeding fishes are also employed by Chelodina. This further promotes the assumption that hydrodynamics constrain evolutive solutions for aquatic feeding.

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