Structure and function of the feeding apparatus in the common musk turtle Sternotherus odoratus (Chelonia, Kinosternidae)

Nikolay Natchev, Egon Heiss, Dietmar Salaberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


The present study examined the kinematic patterns of initial food uptake, food transport, pharyngeal packing and swallow-ing in the common musk turtle Sternotherus odoratus . These data are supplemented by morphological descriptions of the skull and the hyolingual complex. Although the hyoid is mainly cartilaginous, S . odoratus still use exclusively hydrodynamic mechanisms in prey capture and prey transport. The tongue is relatively small, with weakly developed intrinsic musculature. We propose that the elasticity of the hypoglossum and the hyoid body impacts the capability of S . odoratus to suction feed, but allows these turtles to effectively re-position the food items within the oropharyngeal cavity during transport, manipulation and pharyngeal packing. We standardised conditions in all feeding events by using food items of the same consistence and size, and by always offering the food at the same position at the bottom of the aquarium. Nonetheless, the measured kinematic values varied considerably. The duration of prey capture and prey transport cycles were relatively long in S . odoratus com-pared to other freshwater turtles studied so far. The initiation of hyoid retraction relative to the onset of jaw opening can be modulated not only in prey capture but also in prey transport cycles. In the common musk turtle, the jaw and hyoid move-ments apparently have a low level of integration
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-156
Number of pages14
JournalContributions to Zoology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • Feeding behaviour
  • Head morphology
  • Motion analysis
  • Mud turtles
  • Suction


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