All stingrays in the family Myliobatidae are durophagous, consuming bivalves and gastropods, as well as decapod crustaceans. Durophagous rays have rigid jaws, flat teeth that interlock to form pavement-like tooth plates, and large muscles that generate bite forces capable of fracturing stiff biological composites (e.g. mollusk shell). The relative proportion of different prey types in the diet of durophagous rays varies between genera, with some stingray species specializing on particular mollusk taxa, while others are generalists. The tooth plate module provides a curved occlusal surface on which prey is crushed, and this curvature differs significantly among myliobatids. We measured the effect of jaw curvature on prey-crushing success in durophagous stingrays. We milled aluminum replica jaws rendered from computed tomography scans, and crushed live mollusks, three-dimensionally printed gastropod shells, and ceramic tubes with these fabricated jaws. Our analysis of prey items indicate that gastropods were consistently more difficult to crush than bivalves (i.e. were stiffer), but that mussels require the greatest work-to-fracture. We found that replica shells can provide an important proxy for investigations of failure mechanics. We also found little difference in crushing performance between jaw shapes, suggesting that disparate jaws are equally suited for processing different types of shelled prey. Thus, durophagous stingrays exhibit a many-to-one mapping of jaw morphology to mollusk crushing performance.
The Amazon and neighboring South American river basins harbor the world’s most diverse assemblages of freshwater fishes. One of the most prominent South American fish families is the Serrasalmidae (pacus and piranhas), found in nearly every continental basin. Serrasalmids are keystone ecological taxa, being some of the top riverine predators as well as the primary seed dispersers in the flooded forest. Despite their widespread occurrence and notable ecologies, serrasalmid evolutionary history and systematics are controversial. For example, the sister taxon to serrasalmids is contentious, the relationships of major clades within the family are inconsistent across different methodologies, and half of the extant serrasalmid genera are suggested to be non-monophyletic. We analyzed exon capture to reexamine the evolutionary relationships among 63 (of 99) species across all 16 serrasalmid genera and their nearest outgroups, including multiple individuals per species to account for cryptic lineages. To reconstruct the timeline of serrasalmid diversification, we time-calibrated this phylogeny using two different fossil-calibration schemes to account for uncertainty in taxonomy with respect to fossil teeth. Finally, we analyzed diet evolution across the family and comment on associated changes in dentition, highlighting the ecomorphological diversity within serrasalmids. We document widespread non-monophyly of genera within Myleinae, as well as between Serrasalmus and Pristobrycon, and propose that reliance on traits like teeth to distinguish among genera is confounded by ecological homoplasy, especially among herbivorous and omnivorous taxa. We clarify the relationships among all serrasalmid genera, propose new subfamily affiliations, and support hemiodontids as the sister taxon to Serrasalmidae. [Characiformes; exon capture; ichthyochory; molecular time-calibration; piscivory.]
Although rare within the context of 30 000 species of extant fishes, scale-feeding as an ecological strategy has evolved repeatedly across the teleost tree of life. Scale-feeding (lepidophagous) fishes are diverse in terms of their ecology, behaviour, and specialized morphologies for grazing on scales and mucus of sympatric species. Despite this diversity, the underlying ontogenetic changes in functional and biomechanical properties of associated feeding morphologies in lepidophagous fishes are less understood. We examined the ontogeny of feeding mechanics in two evolutionary lineages of scale-feeding fishes: Roeboides, a characin, and Catoprion, a piranha. We compare these two scale-feeding taxa with their nearest, non-lepidophagous taxa to identify traits held in common among scale-feeding fishes. We use a combination of micro-computed tomography scanning and iodine staining to measure biomechanical predictors of feeding behaviour such as tooth shape, jaw lever mechanics and jaw musculature. We recover a stark contrast between the feeding morphology of scale-feeding and non-scale-feeding taxa, with lepidophagous fishes displaying some paedomorphic characters through to adulthood. Few traits are shared between lepidophagous characins and piranhas, except for their highly-modified, stout dentition. Given such variability in development, morphology and behaviour, ecological diversity within lepidophagous fishes has been underestimated.
Growth affects the performance of structure, so the pattern of growth must influence the role of a structure and an organism. Because animal performance is linked to morphological specialization, ontogenetic change in size may influence an organism's biological role. High bite force generation is presumably selected for in durophagous taxa. Therefore, these animals provide an excellent study system for investigating biomechanical consequences of growth on performance. An ontogenetic series of 27 cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus) were dissected in order to develop a biomechanical model of the feeding mechanism, which was then compared with bite forces measured from live rays. Mechanical advantage of the feeding apparatus was generally conserved throughout ontogeny, while an increase in the mass and cross-sectional area of the jaw adductors resulted in allometric gains in bite force generation. Of primary importance to forceful biting in this taxon is the use of a fibrocartilaginous tendon associated with the insertion of the primary jaw adductor division. This tendon may serve to redirect muscle forces anteriorly, transmitting them within the plane of biting. Measured bite forces obtained through electrostimulation of the jaw adductors in live rays were higher than predicted, possibly due to differences in specific tension of actual batoid muscle and that used in the model. Mass-specific bite forces in these rays are the highest recorded for elasmobranchs. Cownose rays exemplify a species that, through allometric growth of bite performance and morphological novelties, have expanded their ecological performance over ontogeny.
Aim: Paleogeographic changes have had profound effects on the evolution and diversity of the Neotropical biota. However, the influence of marine incursions on the origin, diversification, and distribution of fishes is still incompletely understood. We investigate the biogeographical and chronological patterns of diversification for the marine-derived Neotropical freshwater stingrays (subfamily Potamotrygoninae) at a continental scale.Location: Neotropics, South America.Taxa: Neotropical freshwater stingrays. Subfamily Potamotrygoninae (Myliobatiformes: Chondrichthyes). Methods:We generated a time-calibrated phylogeny for 35 of the 38 valid species of Neotropical freshwater stingrays, from most of the major river basins of South America, using four genes. We used BEAST2 to determine the chronology of population and species divergence events, and "BioGeoBEARS" to infer historical biogeographic patterns. Results:The Potamotrygoninae originated during the early/middle Miocene in the upper Amazon region. We recover clades associated with particular geographic areas and detect a recurrent pattern of upper Amazon clades sister to clades in adjacent basins. The timing of dispersals from the upper Amazon to adjacent areas corresponds with the end of the Pebas wetlands. Lower Amazon and Shield associated taxa are relatively young. Main conclusions:We propose that the origin of the Neotropical freshwater stingrays is related to marine incursions that occurred during the Oligocene/Miocene. Subsequent diversification of Potamotrygoninae occurred in the Pebas wetland system in the upper Amazon with colonization of adjacent basins. These movements were generally unidirectional, with few lineages returning to the upper Amazon, and we speculate that ecological factors drove this pattern. We observed a burst of | 1407Fontenelle et al.
Tooth replacement in piranhas is unusual: all teeth on one side of the head are lost as a unit, then replaced simultaneously. We used histology and microCT to examine tooth‐replacement modes across carnivorous piranhas and their herbivorous pacu cousins (Serrasalmidae) and then mapped replacement patterns onto a molecular phylogeny. Pacu teeth develop and are replaced in a manner like piranhas. For serrasalmids, unilateral tooth replacement is not an “all or nothing” phenomenon; we demonstrate that both sides of the jaws have developing tooth rows within them, albeit with one side more mineralized than the other. All serrasalmids (except one) share unilateral tooth replacement, so this is not an adaptation for carnivory. All serrasalmids have interlocking teeth; piranhas interdigitate lateral tooth cusps with adjacent teeth, forming a singular saw‐like blade, whereas lateral cusps in pacus clasp together. For serrasalmids to have an interlocking dentition, their teeth need to develop and erupt at the same time. We propose that interlocking mechanisms prevent tooth loss and ensure continued functionality of the feeding apparatus. Serrasalmid dentitions are ubiquitously heterodont, having incisiform and molariform dentitions reminiscent of mammals. Finally, we propose that simultaneous tooth replacement be considered as a synapomorphy for the family.
Chondrichthyans (sharks, batoids, and chimaeras) have simple feeding mechanisms owing to their relatively few cranial skeletal elements. However, the indirect association of the jaws to the cranium (euhyostylic jaw suspension) has resulted in myriad cranial muscle rearrangements of both the hyoid and mandibular elements. We examined the cranial musculature of an abbreviated phylogenetic representation of batoid fishes, including skates, guitarfishes and with a particular focus on stingrays. We identified homologous muscle groups across these taxa and describe changes in gross morphology across developmental and functional muscle groups, with the goal of exploring how decoupling of the jaws from the skull has effected muscular arrangement. In particular, we focus on the cranial anatomy of durophagous and nondurophagous batoids, as the former display marked differences in morphology compared to the latter. Durophagous stingrays are characterized by hypertrophied jaw adductors, reliance on pennate versus fusiform muscle fiber architecture, tendinous rather than aponeurotic muscle insertions, and an overall reduction in mandibular kinesis. Nondurophagous stingrays have muscles that rely on aponeurotic insertions onto the skeletal structure, and display musculoskeletal specialization for jaw protrusion and independent lower jaw kinesis, relative to durophagous stingrays. We find that among extant chondrichthyans, considerable variation exists in the hyoid and mandibular muscles, slightly less so in hypaxial muscles, whereas branchial muscles are overwhelmingly conserved. As chondrichthyans occupy a position sister to all other living gnathostomes, our understanding of the structure and function of early vertebrate feeding systems rests heavily on understanding chondrichthyan cranial anatomy. Our findings highlight the incredible variation in muscular complexity across chondrichthyans in general and batoids in particular.
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