High-Powered Tongue Projection
Salamanders in the family Plethodontidae have evolved high-powered tongue projection through the use of an elastic-recoil mechanism. Energy is stored within spiraling collagen aponeuroses of the projector muscles. This tongue projection mechanism has also been shown to remain thermally robust across a wide range of temperatures, with projection occurring at high velocity, acceleration, and muscle-mass-specific power in elastically projecting species.
Through my research I have identified similar high-powered projection in a distantly related group of salamanders, the salamandrids. My current research is working to identify the sources of the elastic energy storage within the terrestrial feeding specialist, Chioglossa lusitanica, and determine if this system is able to maintain thermal robustness. These experiments allow me to use diverse methods, including traditional means of dissections, histology, and clearing and staining, as well as high-speed videography and micro-CT imaging. By studying other species within this family, I also aim to identify other species that may have evolved this high-performance feeding.
Header image: the golden-striped salamander, Chioglossa lusitanica.