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The implications of bite performance for diet in two species of lacertid lizards

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One of the performance features that is generally considered crucial to increasing the potential prey spectrum of lizards is bite capacity. In this study we tested whether bite forces may serve as a basis for diet selection in two syntopically occurring lacertid lizards. We did so by measuring bite forces in vivo for a large sample of lizards of the species Podarcis muralis and Lacerta vivipara. To assess the ecological relevance of the bite forces, we tested the hardness of a number of natural prey items of both species. The results of our study support the predictions of biomechanical models of biting in lizards and indicate that both larger animals and larger headed ones bite harder. Surprisingly, head shape is an excellent predictor of bite performance in the species studied. Moreover, it is demonstrated that bite capacity is a potentially important ecological variable that could be used as a factor in explaining patterns of food-resource use, ontogenetic dietary shifts, and sexual dimorphism in diet.

L'une des caractéristiques généralement considérées comme essentielles à l'augmentation de l'amplitude de l'éventail des proies chez les lézards est la force de leur morsure. Au cours de cette étude, nous avons examiné si la force de la morsure peut déterminer le choix des proies chez deux lézards lacertidés qui cohabitent. Pour ce faire, nous avons mesuré la force de la morsure in vivo dans un échantillon important de lézards des espèces Podarcis muralis et Lacerta vivipara. Nous avons également examiné l'importance écologique de la force des morsures en mesurant la dureté de plusieurs des proies naturelles des deux lézards. Nos résultats corroborent les prédictions des modèles biomécaniques de morsures chez les lézards et indique que les gros lézards et les lézards à grosse tête ont une morsure plus robuste. Étonnamment, la taille de la tête a une excellente valeur prédictive de la performance de la morsure chez les espèces étudiées. Nous démontrons en outre que la force de la morsure peut constituer une variable écologique importante qui pourrait éventuellement servir à expliquer les patterns d'utilisation des ressources alimentaires, les changements dans le régime alimentaire au cours du développement et le dimorphisme sexuel de l'alimentation.[Traduit par la Rédaction]
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-04-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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