Premaxillary movements in cyprinodontiform fishes: An unusual protrusion mechanism facilitates "picking" prey capture

Lara A. Ferry-Graham, Alice C. Gibb, L. Patricia Hernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Premaxillary protrusion is hypothesized to confer a number of feeding advantages to teleost fishes; however, most proposed advantages relate to enhanced stealth or suction production during prey capture. Cyprinodontiformes exhibit an unusual form of premaxillary protrusion where the descending process of the premaxilla does not rotate anteriorly to occlude the sides of the open mouth during prey capture. Instead, the premaxilla is protruded such that it gives the impression of a beak during prey capture. We quantified premaxillary kinematics during feeding in four cyprinodontiform taxa and compared them with three percomorph taxa to identify any performance consequences of this protrusion mechanism. Individual prey capture events were recorded using digital high-speed video at 250-500 frames per second (n≥4 individuals, ≥4 strikes per individual). Species differed in the timing of movement and the maximum displacement of the premaxilla during the gape cycle and in the contribution of the premaxilla to jaw closing. Cyprinodontiform taxa produced less premaxillary protrusion than the percomorph taxa, and were consistently slower in the time to maximum gape. Further, it appears cyprinodontiforms can alter the contribution of the premaxilla to mouth closure on an event-specific basis. We were able to demonstrate that, within at least one species, this variability is associated with the location of the prey (bottom vs. water column). Cyprinodontiform upper jaw movements likely reflect increased dexterity associated with a foraging ecology where prey items are "picked" from a variety of locations: the bottom, water column, or surface. We postulate that dexterity requires slow, precisely controlled jaw movements; thus, may be traded off for some aspects of suction-feeding performance, such as protrusion distance and speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-466
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008


  • Atherinomorpha
  • Feeding kinematics
  • Percomorpha
  • Teleost fishes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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