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Stiffening the stingray skeleton - an investigation of durophagy in myliobatid stingrays (Chondrichthyes, batoidea, myliobatidae).

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of morphology
Publication Date
Volume
243
Issue
2
Pages
113–126
Identifiers
PMID: 10658196
Source
Medline

Abstract

The stingray family Myliobatidae contains five durophagous (hard prey specialist) genera and two planktivorous genera. A suite of morphological features makes it possible for the hard prey specialists to crush mollusks and crustaceans in their cartilaginous jaws. These include: 1) flat, pavement-like tooth plates set in an elastic dental ligament; 2) multiple layers of calcified cartilage on the surface of the jaws; 3) calcified struts running through the jaws; and 4) a lever system that amplifies the force of the jaw adductors. Examination of a range of taxa reveals that the presence of multiple layers of calcified cartilage, previously described from just a few species, is a plesiomorphy of Chondrichthyes. Calcified struts within the jaw, called "trabecular cartilage," are found only in the myliobatid genera, including the planktivorous Manta birostris. In the durophagous taxa, the struts are concentrated under the area where prey is crushed, thereby preventing local buckling of the jaws. Trabecular cartilage develops early in ontogeny, and does not appear to develop as a direct result of the stresses associated with feeding on hard prey. A "nutcracker" model of jaw function is proposed. In this model, the restricted gape, fused mandibular and palatoquadrate symphyses, and asynchronous contraction of the jaw adductors function to amplify the closing force by 2-4 times.

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