Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Philip Motta, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Hueter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Florence Thomas, Ph.D.


feeding behavior, kinematics, electromyography, elasmobranch, modulation, Ginglymostoma cirratum


The ability of an organism to modulate its feeding behavior is an important focus of feeding ecology studies. Modulation is the ability to distinctly and consistently alter a behavior to accommodate different stimuli. The goal of this study was to examine the ability of the nurse shark Ginglymostoma cirratum to modulate its food capture behavior with different sizes and types of food items. This was carried out through kinematic and electromyographic analysis.

Eight sub-adult specimens of G. cirratum were filmed feeding on two different food types (squid and fish) and sizes (gape size and larger than gape size). Filming consisted of high-speed videography utilizing a low-light digital video system. Kinematic variables related to lower jaw movement, mouth width, and head angle were measured from video footage. Up to twelve muscles in each of six specimens were implanted with bipolar electrodes to measure the onset and duration of motor activity.

There were no significant differences between food sizes and any of the kinematic variables. Only two muscles showed significant differences in onset time based on food size. In regards to food types, squid bites were significantly faster than fish bites, but when examined proportionately to bite duration only the time to jaw closure remained significantly different.

The motor pattern of G. cirratum demonstrates an anterior to posterior sequence, which corresponds to the anterior to posterior kinematic sequence. Little cranial elevation is present during feeding sequences and is not thought to contribute significantly to feeding.

Ginglymostoma cirratum is a stereotyped, inertial suction feeder. There is little evidence that there is modulation in feeding behavior based on food size or food type. If modulation does exist in the feeding behavior, it is more likely to occur after prey capture while the prey is being processed and manipulated prior to transport. Initial observations suggested that a novel behavior termed 'spit-suck manipulation' is utilized for larger prey items.