Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Stephen M. Deban, Ph.D.


Ontogeny, Scaling, Viscosity, Biomechanics, Morphology


As a comparison to the suction feeding mechanics in aquatic environments, I investigated buccal pumping in an ontogenetic series of suspension feeding Xenopus laevis tadpoles (4-18 mm snout-vent length) by examining the morphology, kinematics, fluid flow, pressure generated in the buccal cavity, and effects of viscosity manipulation. Investigation of the dimensions of the feeding apparatus of Xenopus revealed that the feeding muscles exhibited strong negative allometry, indicating that larger tadpoles had relatively smaller muscles, while the mechanical advantage of those muscles did not change across the size range examined. Buccal volume and head width also exhibited negative allometry: smaller tadpoles had relatively wider heads and larger volumes. Tadpoles were imaged during buccal pumping to obtain kinematics of jaw and hyoid movements as well as fluid velocity.

Scaling patterns were inconsistent with models of geometric growth, which predict that durations of movements are proportional to body length. Only scaling of maximum hyoid distance, duration of mouth closing, and duration of hyoid elevation could not be distinguished from isometry. The only negatively allometric variable was maximum gape distance. No effect of size was found for duration of mouth opening, duration of hyoid depression, and velocity of hyoid elevation. Velocity of mouth opening, velocity of mouth closing, and velocity of hyoid depression decreased with increasing size. Fluid velocity increased with size, and is best predicted by a piston model that includes head width and hyoid depression velocity. Reynolds number increased with size and spanned two flow regimes (laminar and intermediate) ranging from 2 to over 100. Pressure was found to be greatest in the smallest tadpoles and decreased as size increased, ranging from 2 kPa to 80 kPa.

The viscosity of the water was altered to explore changes in body size, independent of development (higher viscosity mimicked smaller tadpole size). Viscosity manipulations had a significant effect on the kinematics. Xenopus initially increased velocity and distance of movements as viscosity increased, but these values declined as viscosity increased further. These results suggest that abiotic factors such as fluid viscosity may set a lower size limit on suspension feeding.