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Jaw Laterality and Related Handedness in the Hunting Behavior of a Scale-Eating Characin, Exodon paradoxus

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029349
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Behavioral Ecology
  • Freshwater Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Animal Behavior
  • Zoology
  • Ichthyology


Background Asymmetry in animal bodies and behavior has evolved several times, but our knowledge of their linkage is limited. Tanganyikan scale-eating cichlids have well-known antisymmetry in their bodies and behavior; individuals open their mouths leftward (righty) or rightward (lefty), and righties always attack the right flank of the prey, whereas lefties attack the left. This study analyzed the morphological asymmetry in a scale-eating characiform, Exodon paradoxus, and its behavioral handedness. Methodology/Principal Findings Each eight E. paradoxus was observed for 1-h with a prey goldfish in an aquarium to detect the behavioral handedness. Following the experiment, the lateral differences in the mandibles and head-inclination of these eight and ten additional specimens were analyzed. Both measurements on the morphology showed a bimodal distribution, and the laterality identified by these two methods was always consistent within a given individual, indicating that the characin has morphological antisymmetry. Furthermore, this laterality significantly corresponded to behavioral handedness; that is, lefties more often rasped scales from the right flank of the prey and vice versa. However, the correlation between laterality and handedness is the opposite of that in the cichlids. This is due to differences in the feeding apparatus and technique. The characin has cuspids pointing forward on the external side of the premaxilla, and it thrusts its dominant body side outward from its body axis on the flank of the prey to tear off scales. By contrast, the cichlids draw their dominant body side inward toward the axis or rotate it to scrape or wrench off scales with the teeth lined in the opened mouth. Conclusions/Significance This study demonstrated that the antisymmetry in external morphology and the corresponding behavioral handedness have evolved in two lineages of scale-eating fishes independently, and these fishes adopt different utilization of their body asymmetry to tear off scales.

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