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Voracious turtle grabs a quick bite.

Voracious turtle grabs a quick bite

Turtles, not usually known as speed demons, can strike fast when the mood strikes them. A new high-speed video system reveals that a chicken turtle takes only 50 milliseconds -- one-twentieth of a second -- to grab a goldfish, helping to disprove the notion that turtles feed by sucking in prey.

The turtle moves "so fast that it looks to your eye as though his head stays still and the fish goes away," says Stephen M. Reilly of the University of California, Irvine, who took part in the discovery.

The Japanese-developed video system, when used with electrodes implanted in an animal's muscles, allows researchers to forgo dissection and instead study animals moving naturally, says Irvine colleague George V. Lauder. The system also lets scientists examine their results immediately and analyze the images by computer.

The video images can serve as a window on development and evolution, Reilly says, citing salamander as a case in point. During their aquatic larval stage, salamanders suck in water and small prey, but after they metamorphose into land-bound adults, they catch dinner by flicking out their tongues. Although the transformation radically changes the animals' anatomy and behavior, the high-speed video and muscle recordings reveal that the muscles of adults contract in almost exactly the same sequence as those of larvae, Reilly says. This pattern may mimic the evolutionary events that transformed some fish into land creatures, and also shows that movements can change dramatically without much change in the brain, he says.
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Author:McKenzie, A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 23, 1989
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