Morphology and function of the feeding apparatus of the lungfish, Lepidosiren paradoxa (Dipnoi)

J Morphol. 1986 Jan;187(1):81-108. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1051870108.


The feeding mechanism of the South American lungfish, Lepidosiren paradoxa retains many primitive teleostome characteristics. In particular, the process of initial prey capture shares four salient functional features with other primitive vertebrates: 1) prey capture by suction feeding, 2) cranial elevation at the cranio-vertebral joint during the mouth opening phase of the strike, 3) the hyoid apparatus plays a major role in mediating expansion of the oral cavity and is one biomechanical pathway involved in depressing the mandible, and 4) peak hyoid excursion occurs after maximum gape is achieved. Lepidosiren also possesses four key morphological and functional specializations of the feeding mechanism: 1) tooth plates, 2) an enlarged cranial rib serving as a site for the origin of muscles depressing the hyoid apparatus, 3) a depressor mandibulae muscle, apparently not homologous to that of amphibians, and 4) a complex sequence of manipulation and chewing of prey in the oral cavity prior to swallowing. The depressor mandibulae is always active during mouth opening, in contrast to some previous suggestions. Chewing cycles include alternating adduction and transport phases. Between each adduction, food may be transported in or out of the buccal cavity to position it between the tooth plates. The depressor mandibulae muscle is active in a double-burst pattern during chewing, with the larger second burst serving to open the mouth during prey transport. Swallowing is characterized by prolonged activity in the hyoid constrictor musculature and the geniothoracicus. Lepidosiren uses hydraulic transport achieved by movements of the hyoid apparatus to position prey within the oral cavity. This function is analogous to that of the tongue in many tetrapods.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eating*
  • Electromyography
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology*
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Jaw / anatomy & histology
  • Jaw / physiology
  • Mastication
  • Mouth / anatomy & histology
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Skull / anatomy & histology
  • Videotape Recording