Functional morphology and biomechanics of the tongue-bite apparatus in salmonid and osteoglossomorph fishes

J Anat. 2009 May;214(5):717-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2009.01056.x.


The tongue-bite apparatus and its associated musculoskeletal elements of the pectoral girdle and neurocranium form the structural basis of raking, a unique prey-processing behaviour in salmonid and osteoglossomorph fishes. Using a quantitative approach, the functional osteology and myology of this system were compared between representatives of each lineage, i.e. the salmonid Salvelinus fontinalis (N = 10) and the osteoglossomorph Chitala ornata (N = 8). Divergence was found in the morphology of the novel cleithrobranchial ligament, which potentially relates to kinematic differences between the raking lineage representatives. Salvelinus had greater anatomical cross-sectional areas of the epaxial, hypaxial and protractor hyoideus muscles, whereas Chitala had greater sternohyoideus and adductor mandibulae mass. Two osteology-based biomechanical models (a third-order lever for neurocranial elevation and a modified four-bar linkage for hyoid retraction) showed divergent force/velocity priorities in the study taxa. Salvelinus maximizes both force (via powerful cranial muscles) and velocity (through mechanical amplification) during raking. In contrast, Chitala has relatively low muscle force but more efficient force transmission through both mechanisms compared with Salvelinus. It remains unclear if and how behavioural modulation and specializations in the post-cranial anatomy may affect the force/velocity trade-offs in Chitala. Further studies of tongue-bite apparatus morphology and biomechanics in a broader species range may help to clarify the role that osteology and myology play in the evolution of behavioural diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bite Force
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology*
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Jaw / anatomy & histology*
  • Jaw / physiology
  • Salmonidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Salmonidae / physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Trout / anatomy & histology
  • Trout / physiology