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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2013 Jul;199(7):641-51. doi: 10.1007/s00359-013-0819-5. Epub 2013 Apr 24.

Prey processing in the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens).

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Department of Biology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549, USA.


We studied prey processing in the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens), involving slow, easily observed head-bobbing movements, which were compared with prey processing in other aquatic feeding vertebrates. We hypothesized that head-bobbing is a unique prey-processing behaviour, which alternatively could be structurally and functionally analogous with raking in basal teleosts, or with pharyngognathy in neoteleosts. Modulation of head-bobbing was elicited by prey with different motility and toughness. Head-bobbing involved sustained mouth occlusion and pronounced cranial elevation, similar to raking. However, the hyoid and pectoral girdle were protracted, and not retracted as in both raking and pharyngognathy. High-speed videofluoroscopy of hyoid movements confirmed that head-bobbing differs from other known aquatic prey-processing behaviours. Nevertheless, head-bobbing and other prey-processing behaviours converge on a recurrent functional theme in the trophic ecology of aquatic feeding vertebrates; the use of intraoral and oropharyngeal dentition surfaces to immobilize, reduce and process relatively large, tough or motile prey. Prey processing outside the pharyngeal region has not been described for neoteleosts previously, but morphological evidence suggests that relatives of Betta might use similar processing behaviours. Thus, our results suggest that pharyngognathy did not out-compete ancestral prey-processing mechanisms completely during the evolution of neoteleosts.

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