Suction power output and the inertial cost of rotating the neurocranium to generate suction in fish

J Theor Biol. 2015 May 7;372:159-67. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2015.03.001. Epub 2015 Mar 10.


To expand the buccal cavity, many suction-feeding fishes rely on a considerable contribution from dorsal rotation of the dorsal part of the head including the brains, eyes, and several bones forming the braincase and skull roof (jointly referred to as the neurocranium). As the neurocranium takes up a large part of the total mass of the head, this rotation may incur a considerable inertial cost. If so, this would suggest a significant selective pressure on the kinematics and mass distribution of the neurocranium of suction feeders. Here, an inverse dynamic model is formulated to calculate the instantaneous power required to rotate the neurocranium, approximated by a quarter ellipsoid volume of homogeneous density, as well as to calculate the instantaneous suction power based on intra-oral pressure and head volume quantifications. We applied this model to largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and found that the power required to rotate the neurocranium accounts for only about 4% of the power required to suck water into the mouth. Furthermore, recovery of kinetic energy from the rotating neurocranium converted into suction work may be possible during the phase of neurocranial deceleration. Thus, we suggest that only a negligible proportion of the power output of the feeding muscles is lost as inertial costs in the largemouth bass. Consequently, the feeding performance of piscivorous suction feeders with generalised morphology, comparable to our model species, is not limited by neurocranial motion during head expansion. This suggests that it is thus not likely to be a factor of importance in the evolution of cranial shape and size.

Keywords: Biomechanics; Cranium; Inverse dynamics; Prey capture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bass
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Models, Biological
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Movement
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology
  • Pressure
  • Rotation
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*
  • Skull / physiology*
  • Suction