Prey capture in frogs: Alternative strategies, biomechanical trade-offs, and hierarchical decision making

Jenna A. Monroy, Kiisa Nishikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Frogs exhibit flexible repertoires of prey-capture behavior, which depend primarily on visual analysis of prey attributes. We review three examples of how visual cues are used to modulate prey-capture strategies. (1) Dyscophus guineti modulates tongue aiming in response to prey location. These frogs turn only their heads to apprehend prey located at azimuths <40°. At azimuths >40°, the frogs switch from this strategy to one in which both head and tongue are aimed toward prey. (2) Rana pipiens modulates its feeding behavior in response to prey size, using tongue prehension for capturing small prey but switching to jaw prehension to capture large prey. (3) In Cyclorana novaehollandiae, visual processing of prey attributes involves hierarchical decision making. These frogs first assess prey size. For large prey, they ignore velocity but not shape. For small prey, they ignore shape but not velocity. Alternative prey-capture strategies are associated with biomechanical trade-offs that result from the interaction between the feeding apparatus and varying attributes of prey. Alternative strategies likely exist because biomechanical constraints prevent any one strategy from being effective over a range of prey attributes. Taken together, these studies emphasize the requirement that predators must somehow tune prey-capture kinematics simultaneously to multiple attributes of prey. In frogs, the choice among alternative prey-capture strategies involves a hierarchical decision-making process. Hierarchical decision making is expected to be widespread among animals. However, no previous studies were found except for humans, who frequently use this type of approach to make complex decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology
Volume315 A
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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