Masters of change : seasonal plasticity in the prey-capture behavior of the Alpine newt **Ichthyosaura alpestris** (Salamandridae)
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
The journal of experimental biology. - London
, p. 4426-4434
University of Antwerp
Transitions between aquatic and terrestrial environments are significant steps in vertebrate evolution. These transitions require major changes in many biological functions, including food uptake and transport. The Alpine newt, Ichthyosaura alpestris, is known to show a multiphasic lifestyle where the adult shifts from a terrestrial to an aquatic lifestyle and then back to a terrestrial lifestyle every year as a result of its breeding activity. These transitions correspond to dramatic changes in morphology, physiology and behavior, resulting in distinct aquatic and terrestrial morphotypes. We hypothesized that these shifts go along with changes in prey-capture mechanics to maintain a sufficiently high performance in both environments. We analyzed the prey-capture kinematics in the four possible modes: aquatic strikes in the aquatic phase, terrestrial strikes in the terrestrial phase, aquatic strikes in the terrestrial phase and terrestrial strikes in the aquatic phase. A multivariate comparison detected significant kinematic differences between the phase-specific feeding modes. In both the aquatic and the terrestrial phase, I. alpestris uses a suction-feeding mechanism for capturing prey in water. By contrast, I. alpestris uses a jaw-based grasping mechanism with a kinematic profile similar to the aquatic modes for terrestrial prey-capture in its aquatic phase but an elaborate lingual-based prehension mechanism to capture terrestrial prey in the terrestrial phase. These results exhibit a so-far unknown amount of behavioral plasticity in prey-capture behavior that is tuned to the seasonal demands of performance, and exemplify functional mechanisms behind aquaticterrestrial transitions in vertebrates.