Mechanism of tongue protraction during prey capture in the spadefoot toad Spea multiplicata (Anura: Pelobatidae)

J Exp Zool. 1995 Nov 1;273(4):282-96. doi: 10.1002/jez.1402730403.


Recent studies have used muscle denervation experiments to examine the function of muscles during feeding in frogs. By comparing the results of denervation experiments among taxa, it is possible to identify evolutionary changes in muscle function. The purpose of this study was to examine the function of jaw and tongue muscles during prey capture in Spea multiplicata, a representative of the superorder Mesobatrachia. All members of this group possess a disjunct hyoid apparatus. We predicted that Spea would possess a novel mechanism of tongue protraction on the basis of its hyoid morphology. High-speed video motion analysis and muscle denervation were used to study the feeding behavior and mechanism of tongue protraction in Spea. Although Spea possesses a relatively long tongue, its feeding behavior is similar to that of short-tongued frogs of similar body size. Denervation of the m. submentalis had no effect on feeding behavior. When the m. geniohyoideus was denervated, the tongue pad was raised and moved forward slightly, but did not leave the mouth. When the m. genioglossus was denervated, the tongue pad was raised slightly, but no forward movement of the tongue occurred. A similar result was obtained after the mm. genioglossus and geniohyoideus were denervated simultaneously. Thus, both the mm. genioglossus and geniohyoideus are necessary for normal tongue protraction in Spea. In contrast, only the m. genioglossus is necessary for normal tongue protraction in archaeobatrachians and neobatrachians. We hypothesize that the disjunct hyoid is responsible for the greater role of hyoid movement during feeding in mesobatrachians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anura / genetics
  • Anura / physiology*
  • Denervation
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Phylogeny
  • Tongue / innervation
  • Tongue / physiology*