The ontogeny of aquatic feeding behavior in Salamandra salamandra: stereotypy and isometry in feeding kinematics

J Exp Biol. 1995;198(Pt 3):701-8.

Abstract

To examine the extent to which aquatic prey-capture behavior in salamanders is stereotyped and how feeding kinematics scales with size, the ontogenetic variability of aquatic feeding behavior was examined in eight Salamandra salamandra. Feeding kinematics (seven duration and angular displacement variables), kinematic variance and capture performance were quantified and compared in the first several feedings after birth with a series of feedings 8 weeks later, just prior to metamorphosis. Analysis of variance revealed no statistically significant ontogenetic differences in the kinematic variables, and individual differences were found in only two variables (maximum gape angle and gape cycle time). A comparison of the relative kinematic variance within individuals revealed no significant differences in variance during ontogeny. In addition, capture success rate did not change. The strike is significantly faster than that of other salamanders. These results indicate that the initial prey-capture behavior remains unchanged throughout larval ontogeny. Thus, aquatic strike behavior in S. salamandra is developmentally fixed (innate) and does not appear to be influenced by learning or improvement in 'skill', supporting the hypothesis that aquatic salamander feeding is a highly stereotyped, unmodulated behavior. In addition, the lack of kinematic change through ontogeny indicates that feeding kinematics do not scale with body size, contrary to predictions that movements should be slower in larger animals.