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Biology (Basel). 2016 Sep 30;5(4). pii: E36.

How Doth the Little Crocodilian: Analyzing the Influence of Environmental Viscosity on Feeding Performance of Juvenile Alligator mississippiensis.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, Union University, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305, USA. jkerfoot@uu.edu.
2
Department of Biology, Union University, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305, USA. emily.easter@my.uu.edu.
3
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, 5476 Grand Chenier Hwy, Grand Chenier, LA 76043, USA. relsey@wlf.la.gov.

Abstract

Wetland habitats are used as nursery sites for hatchling and juvenile alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), where they utilize prey from aquatic and terrestrial settings. However, little is known about how viscosity of the medium influences feeding performance. We hypothesized that timing and linear excursion feeding kinematic variables would be different for individuals feeding on prey above the water compared with the same individuals feeding underwater. Individuals were fed immobile fish prey and feeding events were recorded using a high speed video camera. Feeding performance was summarized by analyzing three feeding kinematic variables (maximum gape, maximum gape velocity, duration of feeding bout) and success of strike. Results of a series of paired t-tests indicated no significant difference in kinematic variables between feeding events above water compared with underwater. Similarity in feeding performance could indicate that prey-capture is not altered by environmental viscosity or that feeding behavior can mitigate its influence. Behavioral differences were observed during feeding events with alligators approaching underwater prey having their mouths partially opened versus fully closed when feeding above water. This behavior could be an indication of a strategy used to overcome water viscosity.

KEYWORDS:

feeding kinematics; habitat variation; prey capture

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