Despite numerous studies of food transport in terrestrial vertebrates, little is known about this aspect of the feeding repertoire in aquatic vertebrates. Previous work had predicted that the kinematics of aquatic prey capture by suction feeding should be similar to those of prey transport. However, recent analyses of aquatic prey capture and transport in the tiger salamander Ambystoma tigrinum have contradicted this hypothesis, and document numerous differences between these two behaviors. In this study, using high-speed video and statistical analyses, we compare prey capture and transport kinematics in a ray-finned fish (Lepomis macrochirus, the bluegill sunfish) to examine the generality of differences between capture and transport behaviors in aquatic vertebrates. Compared with prey capture, prey transport is significantly more rapid and tends to have reduced lower jaw excursions, while having similar hyoid movements. A nested analysis of variance was used to analyze six variables common to both this analysis of Lepomis macrochirus and a previous study of Ambystoma tigrinum; none of these six variables showed significant variation between taxa. These results indicate that aquatic prey transport is kinematically distinct from capture behavior and that the distinctions between these two behaviors are remarkably consistent in two phylogenetically divergent lower vertebrate taxa. Such consistent kinematic differences have not been found in amniote taxa studied to date, but may constitute a plesiomorphic feature of vertebrate feeding systems.

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