Small changes in size can lead to potential performance consequences and may influence an organism’s ability to utilize resources in its environment. As the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis
) transitions between neonate, juvenile and adult habitats (ontogenetic niche shifts), there are inevitably dynamic changes in their feeding performance. This study sought to investigate the scaling of the feeding mechanism and its performance from hatchling to juvenile size classes in A. mississippiensis
. Feeding events were recorded during March 2011 at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge (Grand Chenier, Louisiana). Thirty-six captive individuals were randomly sampled, ranging from 30.5 cm to 91.5 cm total length, and feeding events were recorded using a high speed camera at a rate of 300 fps. Results indicated that many linear, angular and timing kinematic variables scale allometrically with cranium length; whereas maximum gape velocity and duration of feeding bout do not scale with cranium length and remain constant between these size classes. Although it has been shown that there is an isometric relationship between cranial elements and body size in A. mississippiensis
, this relationship is not transferred to linear and timing variables of prey-capture events. These allometric relationships echo other investigations of scaling relationships such as bite-force production and terrestrial locomotion.
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