Ontogenetic scaling of bite force in lizards and turtles

Physiol Biochem Zool. Jan-Feb 2006;79(1):31-42. doi: 10.1086/498193. Epub 2005 Nov 11.


Because selection on juvenile life-history stages is likely strong, disproportionately high levels of performance (e.g., sprint speed, endurance, etc.) might be expected. Whereas this phenomenon has been demonstrated with respect to locomotor performance, data for feeding are scarce. Here, we investigate the relationships among body dimensions, head dimensions, and bite force during growth in lizards and turtles. We also investigate whether ontogenetic changes in bite performance are related to changes in diet. Our analyses show that, for turtles, head dimensions generally increase with negative allometry. For lizards, heads scale as expected for geometrically growing systems. Bite force generally increased isometrically with carapace length in turtles but showed significant positive allometry relative to body dimensions in lizards. However, both lizards and turtles display positive allometric scaling of bite force relative to some measures of head size throughout ontogeny, suggesting (1) strong selection for increased relative bite performance with increasing head size and (2) intrinsic changes in the geometry and/or mass of the jaw adductors during growth. Whereas our data generally do not provide strong evidence of compensation for lower absolute levels of performance, they do show strong links among morphology, bite force, and diet during growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bite Force*
  • Body Size
  • Diet
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Head / anatomy & histology
  • Head / growth & development
  • Jaw / anatomy & histology
  • Jaw / physiology
  • Lizards / anatomy & histology
  • Lizards / growth & development*
  • Lizards / physiology*
  • Turtles / anatomy & histology
  • Turtles / growth & development*
  • Turtles / physiology*