The Teleost Intramandibular Joint: A mechanism That Allows Fish to Obtain Prey Unavailable to Suction Feeders

Alice C. Gibb, Katie Staab, Clinton Moran, Lara Ferry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Although the majority of teleost fishes possess a fused lower jaw (or mandible), some lineages have acquired a secondary joint in the lower jaw, termed the intramandibular joint (IMJ). The IMJ is a new module that formed within the already exceptionally complex teleost head, and disarticulation of two bony elements of the mandible potentially creates a "double-jointed" jaw. The apparent independent acquisition of this new functional module in divergent lineages raises a suite of questions. (1) How many teleostean lineages contain IMJ-bearing species? (2) Does the IMJ serve the same purpose in all teleosts? (3) Is the IMJ associated with altered feeding kinematics? (4) Do IMJ-bearing fishes experience trade-offs in other aspects of feeding performance? (5) Is the IMJ used to procure prey that are otherwise unavailable? The IMJ is probably under-reported, but has been documented in at least 10 lineages within the Teleostei. Across diverse IMJ-bearing lineages, this secondary joint in the lower jaw serves a variety of functions, including: generating dynamic out-levers that allow fish to apply additional force to a food item during jaw closing; allowing fish to "pick" individual prey items with pincer-like jaws; and facilitating contact with the substrate by altering the size and orientation of the gape. There are no consistent changes in feeding kinematics in IMJ-bearing species relative to their sister taxa; however, some IMJ-bearing taxa produce very slow movements during the capture of food, which may compromise their ability to move prey into the mouth via suction. Despite diversity in behavior, all IMJ-bearing lineages have the ability to remove foods that are physically attached to the substrate or to bite off pieces from sessile organisms. Because such prey cannot be drawn into the mouth by suction, the IMJ provides a new mechanism that enables fish to obtain food that otherwise would be unavailable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-96
Number of pages12
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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