Meeting Abstract

S9-1.7  Jan. 6  Feeding mechanisms in snakes KLEY, N.J.*; MEHTA, R.S.; Stony Brook Univ.; Univ. of California, Davis

Most previous studies of snake feeding mechanisms have focused predominantly on details of the anatomy of the jaw apparatus and/or various qualitative aspects of feeding behavior. In contrast, relatively few studies have attempted to quantify feeding performance in living snakes, and none have done so within a broad, phylogenetic context; most such studies have focused on single species. In this study, we examined feeding performance across a relatively wide range of prey sizes in a phylogenetically, morphologically, and ecologically diverse sample of nearly twenty species of terrestrial and fossorial snakes. Prey transport performance was evaluated for all species studied, and prey capture/subjugation performance was evaluated for several constricting species. Interspecific differences in prey transport performance were then correlated with differences in the relative sizes of various elements of the feeding apparatus, such as the supratemporal, quadrate, palatine, pterygoid, dentary, and compound bone. The relationships between feeding performance and morphology that were obtained from these analyses will be discussed in the context of several hypotheses that have emerged from recent molecular phylogenetic studies, which have called into question the traditional, gradualistic view of the evolution of macrophagy in alethinophidian snakes.