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J Exp Biol. 2005 Jun;208(Pt 11):2103-14.

Scaling of suction-feeding kinematics and dynamics in the African catfish, Clarias gariepinus.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerpen, Belgium.


Scaling effects on the kinematics of suction feeding in fish remain poorly understood, at least partly because of the inconsistency of the results of the existing experimental studies. Suction feeding is mechanically distinct from most other type of movements in that negative pressure inside the buccal cavity is thought to be the most important speed-limiting factor during suction. However, how buccal pressure changes with size and how this influences the speed of buccal expansion is unknown. In this paper, the effects of changes in body size on kinematics of suction feeding are studied in the catfish Clarias gariepinus. Video recordings of prey-capturing C. gariepinus ranging in total length from 111 to 923 mm were made, from which maximal displacements, velocities and accelerations of several elements of the cranial system were determined. By modelling the observed expanding head of C. gariepinus as a series of expanding hollow elliptical cylinders, buccal pressure and power requirement for the expansive phase of prey capture were calculated for an ontogenetic sequence of catfish. We found that angular velocities decrease approximately proportional with increasing cranial size, while linear velocities remain more or less constant. Although a decreasing (angular) speed of buccal expansion with increasing size could be predicted (based on calculations of power requirement and the expected mass-proportional scaling of available muscular power in C. gariepinus), the observed drop in (angular) speed during growth exceeds these predictions. The calculated muscle-mass-specific power output decreases significantly with size, suggesting a relatively lower suction effort in the larger catfish compared with the smaller catfish.

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