Functional ecology of feeding in elasmobranchs

Abstract

Feeding behavior in the species of captive chondrichthyans is studied to clarify the functional mechanisms responsible for feeding ecology. Kinematics and pressure in the buccal, hyoid and pharyngeal regions were quantified in Squalus acanthias, Chiloscyllium plagiosum and Leucoraja erinacea using sonomicrometry and pressure transducers. Means and coefficients of variation were analyzed by species and by behavior to test for stereotypy and flexibility in the feeding mechanism. Several instances of mechanical stereotypy as well as flexibility were found in the feeding kinematics and pressure of the three chondrichthyan species. In general, Squalus acanthias shows more stereotyped feeding behavior than C. plagiosum and L. erinacea. Different aspects of feeding behavior stand out among the three species. Chiloscyllium plagiosum generates lowest pressures, S. acanthias achieves the greatest area changes, and L. erinacea has longer durations for manipulating prey. Capture events are functionally and behaviorally stereotyped while processing events are functionally and behaviorally flexible with the ability to use suction or compression to process the same food item. Squalus acanthias is a functional specialist and C. plagiosum is functionally a generalist, with both species exhibiting behavioral flexibility. Leucoraja erinacea is a functional and behavioral generalist. Using functional morphology to explain mechanical stereotypy and flexibility in the feeding behavior of three suction feeding chondrichthyan species has allowed a better understanding of specialist and generalist trophic behaviors.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to Dave Ebert for inviting us to speak in the AES Feeding Ecology of Chondrichthyans Symposium. Thanks to Amy Maynard, Chris Sanford, Jocelyne Dolce, Shannon Gerry, Anabela Maia and Jason Ramsay for assistance and discussion. This project was supported by the National Science Foundation, University of Rhode Island, SeaWorld of San Diego, Quaker Lane Bait and Tackle and Seafreeze, Ltd. of Rhode Island.

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Correspondence to Cheryl A. D. Wilga.

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Wilga, C.A.D., Stoehr, A.A., Duquette, D.C. et al. Functional ecology of feeding in elasmobranchs. Environ Biol Fish 95, 155–167 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-011-9781-7

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Keywords

  • Functional morphology
  • Chiloscyllium
  • Leucoraja
  • Squalus
  • Sonomicrometry
  • Pressure