How does a change in labial tooth row number affect feeding kinematics and foraging performance of a ranid tadpole (Lithobates sphenocephalus)?


Recent studies have explored feeding kinematics in tadpoles with intact labial teeth; however, it is unknown how missing teeth impacts foraging. We explored the impact of missing labial teeth on the feeding mechanics and foraging performance of Southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus [= Rana sphenocephala]) tadpoles by controlling the pattern of labial tooth loss; that is, by surgically removing one row of labial teeth. We then used high-speed (500 frames/second) videography to test the hypothesis that tooth loss reduces the time that tadpoles attach to and graze upon an algal-covered substrate. We next conducted trials of foraging efficiency and foraging activity to test the hypothesis that tadpoles with fewer teeth forage less effectively than control tadpoles. The teeth of tadpoles from the surgery treatment slipped while closing and were in contact with an algal-covered substrate for a shorter duration compared to control tadpoles. Surprisingly, tadpoles with missing labial teeth obtained similar amounts of food and were as active as tadpoles with intact mouthparts. However, tadpoles with missing teeth completed about 25% more gape cycles per unit time than control tadpoles. Our data suggest that tadpoles with missing teeth compensate for inferior feeding kinematics during mouth closing in each gape cycle by increasing the number of gape cycles per unit time. © 2010 Marine Biological Laboratory.

Publication Title

Biological Bulletin