Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 199, Issue 7, pp 641–651 | Cite as

Prey processing in the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens)

  • Nicolai KonowEmail author
  • Belma Krijestorac
  • Christopher P. J. Sanford
  • Renauld Boistel
  • Anthony Herrel
Original Paper


We studied prey processing in the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens), involving slow, easily observed head-bobbing movements, which were compared with prey processing in other aquatic feeding vertebrates. We hypothesized that head-bobbing is a unique prey-processing behaviour, which alternatively could be structurally and functionally analogous with raking in basal teleosts, or with pharyngognathy in neoteleosts. Modulation of head-bobbing was elicited by prey with different motility and toughness. Head-bobbing involved sustained mouth occlusion and pronounced cranial elevation, similar to raking. However, the hyoid and pectoral girdle were protracted, and not retracted as in both raking and pharyngognathy. High-speed videofluoroscopy of hyoid movements confirmed that head-bobbing differs from other known aquatic prey-processing behaviours. Nevertheless, head-bobbing and other prey-processing behaviours converge on a recurrent functional theme in the trophic ecology of aquatic feeding vertebrates; the use of intraoral and oropharyngeal dentition surfaces to immobilize, reduce and process relatively large, tough or motile prey. Prey processing outside the pharyngeal region has not been described for neoteleosts previously, but morphological evidence suggests that relatives of Betta might use similar processing behaviours. Thus, our results suggest that pharyngognathy did not out-compete ancestral prey-processing mechanisms completely during the evolution of neoteleosts.


Convergence Kinematics Oropharyngeal Videofluoroscopy Nutritional physiology 



Adductor mandibulae muscle


Branchial arch remainders




Horizontal movement of basihyal


Vertical movement of basihyal






Cleithrobranchial ligament


Craniovertebral joint


Mandibular jaw gape expansion


Jaw joint


Jaw protrusion


Lower jaw


Magnitude of cranial elevation


Magnitude of pectoral girdle protraction




Neurocranial elevation


Pectoral girdle




Pectoral girdle movement


Protractor hyoideus muscle








Time-zero (cranial elevation onset)


Total length


Upper jaw




Velocity of pectoral girdle protraction


Velocity of neurocranial elevation


Micro-computed tomography



We thank A.L. Camp, A. Luu and S. Van Wassenbergh for help with experiments and analyses, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments. All research complied with the current laws of the United States of America and Belgium, and with institutional ethics permits and animal care and use protocols. Work supported by the National Science Foundation IOB#0444891, #0420440 (to C.P.J.S.) and a research grant from the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders, Belgium (to A.H.).

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 1616 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolai Konow
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Belma Krijestorac
    • 1
  • Christopher P. J. Sanford
    • 1
  • Renauld Boistel
    • 2
  • Anthony Herrel
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyHofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA
  2. 2.Département d’Ecologie et de Gestion de la BiodiversitéUMR 7179 C.N.R.S/M.N.H.N.Paris Cedex 5France
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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