Phenotypic flexibility of gape anatomy fine-tunes the aquatic prey-capture system of newts

Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 7;6:29277. doi: 10.1038/srep29277.


A unique example of phenotypic flexibility of the oral apparatus is present in newts (Salamandridae) that seasonally change between an aquatic and a terrestrial habitat. Newts grow flaps of skin between their upper and lower jaws, the labial lobes, to partly close the corners of the mouth when they adopt an aquatic lifestyle during their breeding season. Using hydrodynamic simulations based on μCT-scans and cranial kinematics during prey-capture in the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris), we showed that this phenotypic flexibility is an adaptive solution to improve aquatic feeding performance: both suction distance and suction force increase by approximately 15% due to the labial lobes. As the subsequent freeing of the corners of the mouth by resorption of the labial lobes is assumed beneficial for the terrestrial capture of prey by the tongue, this flexibility of the mouth fine-tunes the process of capturing prey throughout the seasonal switching between water and land.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Ecosystem
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Phenotype
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Salamandridae / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Tongue / physiology