Biomechanics and hydrodynamics of prey capture in the Chinese giant salamander reveal a high-performance jaw-powered suction feeding mechanism
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Engineering sciences. Technology
Journal of the Royal Society interface: physical and life sciences. - London
, p. 1-12
University of Antwerp
During the evolutionary transition from fish to tetrapods, a shift from uni- to bidirectional suction feeding systems followed a reduction in the gill apparatus. Such a shift can still be observed during metamorphosis of salamanders, although many adult salamanders retain their aquatic lifestyle and feed by high-performance suction. Unfortunately, little is known about the interplay between jaws and hyobranchial motions to generate bidirectional suction flows. Here, we study the cranial morphology, as well as kinematic and hydrodynamic aspects related to prey capture in the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus). Compared with fish and previously studied amphibians, A. davidianus uses an alternative suction mechanism that mainly relies on accelerating water by separating the plates formed by the long and broad upper and lower jaw surfaces. Computational fluid dynamics simulations, based on three-dimensional morphology and kinematical data from high-speed videos, indicate that the viscerocranial elements mainly serve to accommodate the water that was given a sufficient anterior-to-posterior impulse beforehand by powerful jaw separation. We hypothesize that this modified way of generating suction is primitive for salamanders, and that this behaviour could have played an important role in the evolution of terrestrial life in vertebrates by releasing mechanical constraints on the hyobranchial system.