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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jul 14;112(28):8690-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1508055112. Epub 2015 Jun 22.

Swimming muscles power suction feeding in largemouth bass.

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


Most aquatic vertebrates use suction to capture food, relying on rapid expansion of the mouth cavity to accelerate water and food into the mouth. In ray-finned fishes, mouth expansion is both fast and forceful, and therefore requires considerable power. However, the cranial muscles of these fishes are relatively small and may not be able to produce enough power for suction expansion. The axial swimming muscles of these fishes also attach to the feeding apparatus and have the potential to generate mouth expansion. Because of their large size, these axial muscles could contribute substantial power to suction feeding. To determine whether suction feeding is powered primarily by axial muscles, we measured the power required for suction expansion in largemouth bass and compared it to the power capacities of the axial and cranial muscles. Using X-ray reconstruction of moving morphology (XROMM), we generated 3D animations of the mouth skeleton and created a dynamic digital endocast to measure the rate of mouth volume expansion. This time-resolved expansion rate was combined with intraoral pressure recordings to calculate the instantaneous power required for suction feeding. Peak expansion powers for all but the weakest strikes far exceeded the maximum power capacity of the cranial muscles. The axial muscles did not merely contribute but were the primary source of suction expansion power and generated up to 95% of peak expansion power. The recruitment of axial muscle power may have been crucial for the evolution of high-power suction feeding in ray-finned fishes.


XROMM; epaxial; hypaxial; muscle power; volume

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