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J Exp Biol. 2012 Jul 1;215(Pt 13):2262-72. doi: 10.1242/jeb.070516.

Flexibility in starting posture drives flexibility in kinematic behavior of the kinethmoid-mediated premaxillary protrusion mechanism in a cyprinid fish, Cyprinus carpio.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Premaxillary protrusion in cypriniform fishes involves rotation of the kinethmoid, an unpaired skeletal element in the dorsal midline of the rostrum. No muscles insert directly onto the kinethmoid, so its rotation must be caused by the movement of other bones. In turn, the kinethmoid is thought to push on the ascending processes of the premaxillae, effecting protrusion. To determine the causes and effects of kinethmoid motion, we used XROMM (x-ray reconstruction of moving morphology) to measure the kinematics of cranial bones in common carp, Cyprinus carpio. Mean kinethmoid rotation was 83 deg during premaxillary protrusion (18 events in 3 individuals). The kinethmoid rotates in a coordinated way with ventral translation of the maxillary bridge, and this ventral translation is likely driven primarily by the A1β muscle. Analyses of flexibility (variability between behaviors) and coordination (correlation between bones within a behavior) indicate that motion of the maxillary bridge, not the lower jaw, drives premaxillary protrusion. Thus, upper jaw protrusion is decoupled from lower jaw depression, allowing for two separate modes of protrusion, open mouth and closed mouth. These behaviors serve different functions: to procure food and to sort food, respectively. Variation in starting posture of the maxilla alone dictates which type of protrusion is performed; downstream motions are invariant. For closed mouth protrusion, a ventrally displaced maxillary starting posture causes kinethmoid rotation to produce more ventrally directed premaxillary protrusion. This flexibility, bestowed by the kinethmoid-maxillary bridge-A1β mechanism, one of several evolutionary novelties in the cypriniform feeding mechanism, may have contributed to the impressive trophic diversity that characterizes this speciose lineage.

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