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J Exp Biol. 2017 Dec 1;220(Pt 23):4486-4491. doi: 10.1242/jeb.159442. Epub 2017 Oct 5.

The effect of food properties on grasping and manipulation in the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis.

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UMR 7179 CNRS/MNHN, D├ępartement Adaptations du Vivant, 75005, Paris Cedex 5, France.
UMR 7179 CNRS/MNHN, D├ępartement Adaptations du Vivant, 75005, Paris Cedex 5, France


The ability to grasp an object is fundamental from an evolutionary perspective. Involved in many daily activities, grasping has been extensively studied in primates and other mammals. Yet other groups of tetrapods, including anurans, have also evolved significant forelimb prehensile capacities that are often thought to have originated in an arboreal context. In addition, grasping is also observed in aquatic species. But how aquatic frogs use their forelimbs to capture and manipulate prey remains largely unknown. The aim of this study is to explore how the grasping and manipulation of food items in aquatic frogs is impacted by food properties such as size and mobility. To do so, we uses the aquatic frog Xenopus laevis and quantified the use of the hands and fingers while processing mobile and stationary prey of different sizes (small, intermediate and large). Our results show that X. laevis is able to individualize the digits and that the mobility and the length of the prey significantly influence the kind of grasping pattern used. Grasping abilities are thus not specific to terrestrial or arboreal species. These results illustrate how prey properties impact grasping and manipulation strategies in an aquatic frog and shed further light on the ecological contexts that may have given rise to the origin of grasping in frogs.


Anurans; Dexterity; Digits; Hand; Manipulation; Prehension; Prey properties


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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