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Flexibility in feeding behaviour may compensate for morphological constraints of fossoriality in the amphisbaenian Blanus cinereus

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image of Amphibia-Reptilia

Morphological adaptations for burrowing, such as an elongated body, and a small head may constrain feeding behaviour in fossorial reptiles. We experimentally examined the effect of prey type on prey capture and handling behaviour of the amphisbaenian Blanus cinereus. This amphisbaenian showed four different handling modes according to the characteristics of each prey type. When prey diameter was narrower than gape-size, prey were consumed without prey processing; when prey diameter was wider than gape-size, B. cinereus shifted handling mode to prey processing. Amphisbaenians scraped or tore off bite-sized pieces of large prey and showed longer handling times for some prey types than most epigean saurians. Flexibility in feeding behaviour may allow amphisbaenians to exploit variable underground trophic resources, overcoming constraints of morphological adaptation to fossoriality.

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain


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