Trade-offs in Feeding Performance
Amphibious animals move between environments throughout their lifetime and must maintain certain levels of performance for various behaviors in order to survive. In particular I am interested in how feeding is accomplished during transitions between aquatic and terrestrial environments. My research uses high-speed videography to assess kinematics during feeding events in both environments, as well as dissections to better understand the morphology underlying these movements. During my dissertation work I also built and utilized a digital particle velocimetry system to quantify fluid velocity generated during suction feeding events.
My research focuses on the link between morphology and performance from a functional standpoint. For these experiments I use salamanders from the Family Salamandridae as a model system because these animals have diverse ecology and feeding morphology. By studying this group of salamanders I can not only learn about animals that are traditionally semi-aquatic, living in both environments throughout their lives, but can compare their performance and morphology to organisms that only live in either aquatic or terrestrial environments as adults.
By researching salamanders across a range of preferential environments, I can assess if animals are specialized for feeding in a particular environment, as well as determine what trade-offs occur in this system.
After an evening of collecting salamanders in Spain. Pictured here is the Galician fire salamander, Salamandra salamandra galaica.
DPIV set up prepping to record fluid flows during suction feeding events.
Ready and action! A newt, Paramesotriton labiatus, patiently awaiting for some food at feeding time.
Header image: sample of a terrestrial feeding trial being set up with Salamandra salamandra.