Strain gauge measurement of mesokinetic movement in the lizard Varanus exanthematicus.
Single-element strain gauges were placed across the mesokinetic joint of the skull of the savanna monitor lizard, Varanus exanthematicus Bosc, in order to document the extent and timing of mesokinetic movement. In addition, rosette strain gauges were placed on various points of the palato-maxillary segment. Strain recordings and simultaneous cineradiographic films or videotapes were taken during normal feeding activities, including the strike, prey manipulation, ingestion and pharyngeal compression. Tensile strain, indicating lowering (retraction) of the palato-maxillary segment, was observed during all stages of feeding. Compressive strain, indicating lifting (protraction) of the palato-maxillary segment, generally appeared briefly in the strike and during pharyngeal compression. Maximum tensile strains were always larger than maximum compressive strains within each sequence. The highest levels of tensile strain occurred during prey manipulation periods, which were characterized by isometric biting. Strain on the palato-maxillary segment revealed a pattern of timing similar to the one at the mesokinetic joint, although strain levels were at least an order of magnitude lower. These data directly contradict conventional models of the function of the kinetic skull in lizards. We conclude that the kinetic apparatus in lizards is not a mechanism for actively moving the palato-maxillary unit and is therefore not a mechanism for increasing gape or actively controlling upper jaw movements.
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