Suction feeding by a tiny predatory tadpole

This amphibian shoots its mouth forwards in a fish-like manner to suck in its prey.


Pipid tadpoles of the African genus Hymenochirus are not only among the smallest free-swimming, feeding vertebrates, but are also predatory suction feeders1 — unlike other tadpoles, which typically ingest a suspension of organic particles. Here we use a high-speed video system to study details of the feeding mechanics of Hymenochirus boettgeri tadpoles and find that they first track individual prey organisms visually, and chase and then capture them by mouth using suction. This feeding mechanism is unique among frogs and is strikingly convergent with that used by teleost fishes.

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Figure 1: Morphology and function of suction feeding in the tadpole Hymenochirus boettgeri (body length, 2.6 mm).


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Correspondence to Stephen M. Deban.

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Deban, S., Olson, W. Suction feeding by a tiny predatory tadpole. Nature 420, 41–42 (2002).

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