The kinematics of prey capture in Xystreurys liolepis: Do all flatfish feed asymmetrically?

Alice C. Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Previous research has shown that one species of flatfish displays several functional asymmetries of the head and jaws during prey capture. However, it is not known whether the functional asymmetries observed for this species are common to all flatfishes. In order to determine whether functional asymmetry is present in other flatfish taxa, prey-capture behavior was examined in a species of flatfish with little cephalic morphological asymmetry, Xystreurys liolepis (Pleuronectiformes: Paralichthyidae). In addition, X. liolepis is one of a few species of flatfish in which both typical (sinistral) and reversed (dextral) individuals are commonly found. Five individuals (two dextral and three sinistral) of X. liolepis were video- taped feeding at 250 fields s-1 in order to quantify prey-capture kinematics. These data were used to test two hypotheses: (1) that typical and reversed-symmetry individuals have identical prey-capture kinematics, and (2) that X. liolepis exhibit no functional asymmetry during prey capture because they have little morphological asymmetry. Analysis of prey capture indicates that the kinematic variables measured for sinistral and dextral individuals are statistically indistinguishable. In addition, X. liolepis do not exhibit the same suite of functional asymmetries that has been found in a flatfish species with more extreme cephalic morphological asymmetry (Pleuronichthys verticalis). However, asymmetrical anterior movement of the ventral portion of the maxilla does occur in X. liolepis during mouth opening. Examination of osteological preparations and cleared and stained individuals indicates that the maxilla is asymmetrical in length in this species. A simple model indicates that the differential length of the maxilla is sufficient to explain the observed functional asymmetry during prey capture. These results suggest that certain morphological asymmetries of the jaws of flatfishes are modifications for specialized prey-capture behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2269-2283
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1996


  • Xystreurys liolepis
  • asymmetry
  • feeding behavior
  • flatfish
  • kinematics
  • prey capture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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