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J Theor Biol. 2001 Jun 21;210(4):463-74.

Computational fluid dynamics in the oral cavity of ram suspension-feeding fishes.

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Department of Mathematics and Institute of Theoretical Dynamics, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8618, USA.


We have modeled steady, three-dimensional flow with a no-slip boundary condition in cylindrical and conical oral cavities possessing vertical or slanted branchial slits. These numerical simulations illustrate the transport of food particles toward the esophagus, as well as the velocity profiles of water exiting the oral cavity via the branchial slits. The maximum and average velocities are highest for flow exiting the most posterior branchial slit. The highest volume flow rates also occur in the most posterior slit for the cylindrical simulations, but occur in the most anterior slit for the conical simulations. Along the midline, there is a pronounced bilaterally symmetrical vortex in the posterodorsal region of the cylindrical and conical oral cavities and a second bilaterally symmetrical vortex in the posteroventral region of the cylinder. Particles entrained in the vortices will recirculate in the posterior oral cavity, increasing the probability of encounter with sticky, mucus-covered surfaces such as the oral roof, gill arches, or gill rakers. The posterodorsal vortex could serve to concentrate particles near the entrances of the epibranchial organs. The ventral vortex could be involved in sequestering dense inorganic particles that sink toward the floor of the oral cavity. All vortices are absent in the conical simulation with vertical branchial slits, indicating that the slanted branchial slits between the gill arches are responsible for the formation of the vortex in the conical oral cavity. Experiments using in vivo flow visualization techniques are needed to determine whether ram suspension feeders, pump suspension feeders, and non-suspension-feeding fishes possess vortices in the posterior oral cavity that contribute to particle transport, food particle encounter with sticky surfaces, and inorganic particle rejection.

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