Neuromuscular control of prey capture in frogs

Kiisa C. Nishikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


While retaining a feeding apparatus that is surprisingly conservative morphologically, frogs as a group exhibit great variability in the biomechanics of tongue protraction during prey capture, which in turn is related to differences in neuromuscular control. In this paper, I address the following three questions. (1) How do frog tongues differ biomechanically? (2) What anatomical and physiological differences are responsible? (3) How is biomechanics related to mechanisms of neuromuscular control? Frog species use three non-exclusive mechanisms to protract their tongues during feeding: (i) mechanical pulling, in which the tongue shortens as its muscles contract during protraction; (ii) inertial elongation, in which the tongue lengthens under inertial and muscular loading; and (iii) hydrostatic elongation, in which the tongue lengthens under constraints imposed by the constant volume of a muscular hydrostat. Major differences among these functional types include (i) the amount and orientation of collagen fibres associated with the tongue muscles and the mechanical properties that this connective tissue confers to the tongue as a whole; and (ii) the transfer of inertia from the opening jaws to the tongue, which probably involves a catch mechanism that increases the acceleration achieved during mouth opening. The mechanisms of tongue protraction differ in the types of neural mechanisms that are used to control tongue movements, particularly in the relative importance of feed-forward versus feedback control, in requirements for precise interjoint coordination, in the size and number of motor units, and in the afferent pathways that are involved in coordinating tongue and jaw movements. Evolution of biomechanics and neuromuscular control of frog tongues provides an example in which neuromuscular control is finely tuned to the biomechanical constraints and opportunities provided by differences in morphological design among species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)941-954
Number of pages14
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1385
StatePublished - May 29 1999


  • Biomechanics
  • Evolution
  • Muscular hydrostats
  • Tongues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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