Kinematics of terrestrial capture of prey by the eel-catfish Channallabes apus

Integr Comp Biol. 2013 Aug;53(2):258-68. doi: 10.1093/icb/ict036. Epub 2013 Apr 26.


In contrast to numerous studies on the function of the locomotor system used by fishes when moving between water and land, little knowledge is available about the biomechanical requirements to the capture and transport of food by fish in a terrestrial situation. This study focuses on the kinematics of terrestrial capture of prey by the eel-catfish (Channallabes apus: Clariidae), a behavior that was only recently discovered for this species. The analyses show that C. apus inclines its head downward at a significantly steeper angle during terrestrial feeding compared with benthic aquatic feeding. This suggests that placing the jaws above ground-based prey is important for successful prehension by the jaws. The increased inclination of the head resulted from accumulated dorsoventral flexion of the body more than one head-length behind the skull. Alternatively, this posture of the head was assumed by rolling to one side while bending the body laterally. The speed of buccopharyngeal expansion in air versus in water matched the predicted increase by a factor of 3, under the assumption that the velocity of muscular contraction for maximal output of power by C. apus is optimized to operate under a specific hydrodynamic loading, and shifts to an unloaded contraction regime when operating in air. Combining these insights with future studies on other extant amphibious fish species that perform terrestrial feeding may eventually allow us to pinpoint the adaptations to the feeding system that have led to the evolution of a terrestrial lifestyle in tetrapods.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Catfishes / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Eels / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Video Recording