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, 210 (Pt 22), 3897-909

Morphology and Kinematics of Feeding in Hagfish: Possible Functional Advantages of Jaws


Morphology and Kinematics of Feeding in Hagfish: Possible Functional Advantages of Jaws

Andrew J Clark et al. J Exp Biol.


As in gnathostomes, the hagfish feeding apparatus includes skeletal, dental and muscular components. In the present study, we examined feeding morphology and kinematics in two hagfish species, Eptatretus stoutii and Myxine glutinosa, representing the two major hagfish lineages. E. stoutii have larger dental plates, larger basal plates, and stronger clavatus muscles (the major dental plate retractor) than M. glutinosa. Despite morphological differences, kinematic profiles are similar in E. stoutii and M. glutinosa. When protracted, the dental plate unfolds and exposes keratinous teeth, which are then embedded in the prey. Once food is grasped, the dental plate is retracted into the mouth. During retraction, the clavatus muscle can generate up to 16 N of force, which exceeds the bite force of some gnathostomes of similar size. In addition to producing high forces with the feeding muscles, hagfish can evert their dental plates to 180 degrees , exceeding the gape angles attained by virtually all gnathostomes, suggesting vertebrate jaws are not the prerequisites for muscle force generation and wide gapes. We propose that dental plate protraction and retraction can be modeled as a fixed pulley that lacks the speed amplification occurring in gnathostome jaws. Hagfish gape cycle times are approximately 1 s, and are longer than those of gnathostomes, suggesting that a functional advantage of jaws is the speed that allows gnathostomes to exploit elusive prey.

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