Functional morphology and kinematics of terrestrial feeding in the largescale foureyes (Anableps anableps)

Krijn B. Michel, Peter Aerts, Alice C. Gibb, Sam Van Wassenbergh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A major challenge for aquatic vertebrates that invade land is feeding in the terrestrial realm. The capacity of the gape to become parallel with the ground has been shown to be a key factor to allow fishes to feed on prey lying on a terrestrial surface. To do so, two strategies have been identified that involve a nose-down tilting of the head: (1) by pivoting on the pectoral fins as observed in mudskippers, and (2) curling of the anterior part of the body supported by a long and flexible eel-like body as shown in eel-catfish. Although Anableps anableps successfully feeds on land, it does not possess an eel-like body or pectoral fins to support or lift the anterior part of the body. We identified the mechanism of terrestrial prey capture in A. anableps by studying kinematics and functional morphology of the cranial structures, using high-speed video and graphical 3D reconstructions from computed tomography scans. In contrast to the previously described mechanisms, A. anableps relies solely on upper and lower jaw movement for re-orientation of the gape towards the ground. The premaxilla is protruded anteroventrally, and the lower jaw is depressed to a right angle with the substrate. Both the lower and upper jaws are selectively positioned onto the prey. Anableps anableps thereby uses the jaw protrusion mechanism previously described for other cyprinodontiforms to allow a continued protrusion of the premaxilla even while closing the jaws. Several structural adaptations appear to allow more controlled movements and increased amplitude of anterior and ventral protrusion of the upper jaw compared with other cyprinodontiforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2951-2960
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Cyprinodontiformes
  • Functional morphology
  • Premaxilla

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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