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Mechanics of snout expansion in suction-feeding seahorses: musculoskeletal force transmission
Van Wassenbergh, S.; Leysen, H.; Adriaens, D.; Aerts, P. (2013). Mechanics of snout expansion in suction-feeding seahorses: musculoskeletal force transmission. J. Exp. Biol. 216(3): 407-417.
In: Journal of Experimental Biology. Cambridge University Press: London. ISSN 0022-0949; e-ISSN 1477-9145, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 279214 [ OMA ]

    Syngnathidae Bonaparte, 1831 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    prey capture; Syngnathidae; biomechanics

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    Seahorses and other syngnathid fishes rely on a widening of the snout to create the buccal volume increase needed to suck prey into the mouth. This snout widening is caused by abduction of the suspensoria, the long and flat bones outlining the lateral sides of the mouth cavity. However, it remains unknown how seahorses can generate a forceful abduction of the suspensoria. To understand how force is transmitted to the suspensoria via the hyoid and the lower jaw, we performed mathematical simulations with models based on computerized tomography scans of Hippocampus reidi. Our results show that the hinge joint between the left and right hyoid bars, as observed in H. reidi, allows for an efficient force transmission to the suspensorium from a wide range of hyoid angles, including the extremely retracted hyoid orientations observed in vivo for syngnathids. Apart from the hyoid retraction force by the sternohyoideus–hypaxial muscles, force generated in the opposite direction on the hyoid by the mandibulohyoid ligament also has an important contribution to suspensorium abduction torque. Forces on the lower jaw contribute only approximately 10% of the total suspensorium torque. In particular, when dynamical aspects of hyoid retraction are included in the model, a steep increase is shown in suspensorium abduction torque at highly retracted hyoid positions, when the linkages to the lower jaw counteract further hyoid rotation in the sagittal plane. A delayed strain in these linkages allows syngnathids to postpone suction generation until the end of cranial rotation, a fundamental difference from non-syngnathiform fishes.

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