Some newt species change seasonally between an aquatic and a terrestrial life as adults, and are therefore repeatedly faced with different physical circumstances that affect a wide range of functions of the organism. For example, it has been observed that seasonally habitat-changing newts display notable changes in skin texture and tail fin anatomy, allowing one to distinguish an aquatic and a terrestrial morphotype. One of the main functional challenges is the switch between efficient aquatic and terrestrial prey capture modes. Recent studies have shown that newts adapt quickly by showing a high degree of behavioral flexibility, using suction feeding in their aquatic stage and tongue prehension in their terrestrial stage. As suction feeding and tongue prehension place different functional demands on the prey capture apparatus, this behavioral flexibility may clearly benefit from an associated morphological plasticity. In this study, we provide a detailed morphological analysis of the musculoskeletal system of the prey capture apparatus in the two multiphasic newt species Ichthyosaura alpestris and Lissotriton vulgaris by using histological sections and micro-computed tomography. We then test for quantitative changes of the hyobranchial musculoskeletal system between aquatic and terrestrial morphotypes, The descriptive morphology of the cranio-cervical musculoskeletal system provides new insights on form and function of the prey capture apparatus in newts, and the quantitative approach shows hypertrophy of the hyolingual musculoskeletal system in the terrestrial morphotype of L. vulgaris but hypertrophy in the aquatic morphotype of I. alpestris. It was therefore concluded that the seasonal habitat shifts are accompanied by a species-dependent muscular plasticity of which the potential effect on multiphasic feeding performance in newts remains unclear.
Keywords: environmental transitions; feeding; lissamphibia; urodeles.
© 2016 Anatomical Society.