Buccal Pumping Mechanics of Xenopus laevis Tadpoles: Effects of Biotic and Abiotic Factors

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amphibian, feeding, scaling, viscosity

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Biotic factors such as body size and shape have long been known to influence kinematics in vertebrates. Movement in aquatic organisms can also be strongly affected by abiotic factors such as the viscosity of the medium. We examined the effects of both biotic factors and abiotic factors on buccal pumping kinematics in Xenopus tadpoles using high-speed imaging of an ontogenetic series of tadpoles combined with experimental manipulation of the medium over a 10-fold range of viscosity. We found influences of both biotic and abiotic factors on tadpole movements; absolute velocities and excursions of the jaws and hyoid were greater in higher viscosity fluid but durations of movements were unaffected. Smaller tadpoles have relatively wider heads and more robust hyoid muscles used in buccal expansion and compression. Lever arm ratios were found to be constant at all sizes; therefore, smaller tadpoles have relatively higher resolved muscle forces and, like tadpoles in more viscous medium, displayed higher absolute velocities of jaw and hyoid movements. Nonetheless, small tadpoles drew in water at lower Reynolds numbers (Re) than predicted by kinematics, due to negative allometry of the buccal pump. Finally, tadpoles transitioned from a flow regime dominated by viscous forces (Re=2) to an intermediate regime (Re=106).

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Journal of Experimental Biology, v. 213, issue 14, p. 2444-2452