Friday, 23 September 2016

Freshwater stingrays chew their food just like a goat

Date: September 16, 2016
Source: University of Toronto
A new University of Toronto study has found that some freshwater stingrays from the Amazon chew their food in a similar fashion as mammals.

Using a combination of high-speed video and CT scans Matthew Kolmann, a recently graduated PhD in the lab of U of T Scarborough's Nathan Lovejoy found that as the freshwater stingray Potamotrygon motoro eats it protrudes its jaws away from its skull, shearing from side to side in the process.

"It's pretty extraordinary when you think about it -- here's this bizarre-looking fish from the Amazon that evolved these behaviors separately from mammals, but chews its food just like a cow or a goat," he says.

Kolmann was first drawn to the question of how P. motoro and its close relative, Potamotrygon orbignyi, eat their prey after finding out both species feed on aquatic insects, unique for a family that also includes sharks, skates and other stingrays.

Stingrays have fins that encircle their head called a disk. They catch prey by lifting up the front part of their disk, which draws water and prey underneath, much like a suction cup. Once rays have trapped their prey, they grab it by rapidly protruding their jaws, shredding and tearing it apart.

"They don't actually use their mouth to catch their prey, which suggests that parts of the mouth can evolve away from that specific purpose and may be driving the novelty of this chewing behaviour," Kolmann says.

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