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Proc Biol Sci. 2016 Sep 14;283(1838). pii: 20161392. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.1392.

Always chew your food: freshwater stingrays use mastication to process tough insect prey.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Canada Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada mkolmann@gmail.com.
2
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Canada.
3
Department of Biology, University of Washington, Friday Harbor Laboratories, Friday Harbor, WA, USA.
4
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Canada Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

Abstract

Chewing, characterized by shearing jaw motions and high-crowned molar teeth, is considered an evolutionary innovation that spurred dietary diversification and evolutionary radiation of mammals. Complex prey-processing behaviours have been thought to be lacking in fishes and other vertebrates, despite the fact that many of these animals feed on tough prey, like insects or even grasses. We investigated prey capture and processing in the insect-feeding freshwater stingray Potamotrygon motoro using high-speed videography. We find that Potamotrygon motoro uses asymmetrical motion of the jaws, effectively chewing, to dismantle insect prey. However, CT scanning suggests that this species has simple teeth. These findings suggest that in contrast to mammalian chewing, asymmetrical jaw action is sufficient for mastication in other vertebrates. We also determined that prey capture in these rays occurs through rapid uplift of the pectoral fins, sucking prey beneath the ray's body, thereby dissociating the jaws from a prey capture role. We suggest that the decoupling of prey capture and processing facilitated the evolution of a highly kinetic feeding apparatus in batoid fishes, giving these animals an ability to consume a wide variety of prey, including molluscs, fishes, aquatic insect larvae and crustaceans. We propose Potamotrygon as a model system for understanding evolutionary convergence of prey processing and chewing in vertebrates.

KEYWORDS:

chitin; cranial kinesis; insect cuticle; odonata; toughness

PMID:
27629029
PMCID:
PMC5031661
DOI:
10.1098/rspb.2016.1392
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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