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Biomechanical Studies of Food and Diet Selection

  1. Anthony Herrel1,
  2. Sam Van Wassenbergh2,
  3. Peter Aerts2

Published Online: 15 JUN 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003213.pub2



How to Cite

Herrel, A., Van Wassenbergh, S. and Aerts, P. 2012. Biomechanical Studies of Food and Diet Selection. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    UMR CNRS/MNHN, Department EGB, 55 rue Buffon, Paris, France

  2. 2

    University of Antwerp, Department of Biology, Belgium

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUN 2012


The ways animals acquire food are largely determined by the medium in which they feed. As water is dense and viscous, resistive forces are important and affect the way prey can be captured resulting in the independent evolution of suction feeding in many vertebrate groups. Alternatively, on land, gravitational forces play an important role and will affect prey capture and transport by imposing limits on the use of adhesive forces and thus tongue-based capture and transport. Biomechanical approaches involving the analysis of movements and forces can, combined with theoretical models, help explain the selective pressures operating on the feeding system. As such, these approaches may help explain the divergence of the feeding system in animals occupying different ecological niches and may help us understand the proximate factors driving adaptive radiations.

Key Concepts:

  • The density of the medium animals live in determines their prey capture strategy.

  • Prey capture using suction has evolved independently in many vertebrate groups.

  • Tongues work only on land.

  • Trade-offs are inherent to mechanical systems.

  • Biomechanical models are limited by the quality of the input data used.

  • Tooth morphology and wear are powerful indicators of feeding ecology.

  • Functional approaches can help explain ecomorphological patterns.

  • The feeding system and prey mechanical defences co-evolve.


  • feeding;
  • biomechanics;
  • modelling;
  • functional morphology;
  • ecomorphology;
  • suspension feeding;
  • suction feeding;
  • bite force;
  • trade-offs