Dynamic Functional Integration of Motor and Sensory Systems during Predator-Prey Interactions

Clark, Rulon W.



Biology Department                                                                                                                                              

San Diego State University                                                                                                                                 

San Diego, California, USA


Higham, Tim                                                                                                                                               Department of Biology                                                                                                                                         

University of California at Riverside                                                                                                         

Riverside, California, USA


Freymiller, Grace                                                                                                                                          

Whitford, Malachi                                                                                                                                             

Biology Department                                                                                                                                                San Diego State University                                                                                                                                    

San Diego, California, USA


For most animals, high levels of locomotion and feeding performance require a number of sensorimotor systems to respond dynamically to the surrounding environment. The integration of sensory inputs and motor output is an emerging theme in evolutionary studies focusing on biomechanics and functional morphology of predation behavior. Rich sensory inputs may enhance the ability of predators to integrate complex motor function, as well as offer redundancy to cope with environmental variability. Our detailed studies of predator-prey interactions between ambush-hunting rattlesnakes and small mammals provide a useful exemplar for analyzing dynamic sensorimotor integration in natural systems. Pitvipers are generally ambush foragers, relying on crypsis, the element of surprise, and a short but very rapid strike to effect prey capture. Predation on small mammals requires successful detection, evaluation, pursuit, and subjugation of prey, and pitvipers integrate thermal, visual, chemical, and vibrational information in various combinations to drive success in each phase of this predatory sequence.

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