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Scaling the Feeding Mechanism of Captive Alligator mississippiensis from Hatchling to Juvenile

Department of Biological Sciences, Union University, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305, USA
United State Department of Agriculture, Auburn University, 602 Duncan Drive, Auburn, AL 36849, USA
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, 5476 Grand Chenier Hwy, Grand Chenier, LA 76043, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Biology 2014, 3(4), 724-738;
Received: 12 September 2014 / Revised: 25 October 2014 / Accepted: 28 October 2014 / Published: 10 November 2014
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: American alligator; ontogenetic niche shift; prey-capture kinematics American alligator; ontogenetic niche shift; prey-capture kinematics
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Kerfoot, J.R., Jr.; Fern, M.P.; Elsey, R.M. Scaling the Feeding Mechanism of Captive Alligator mississippiensis from Hatchling to Juvenile. Biology 2014, 3, 724-738.

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