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Abstract

Among piscivorous cichlids consistent differences have been recorded between ambush and pursuit hunters with respect to electromyographic, kinematic, pressure and behavioral profiles during prey capture by high speed inertial suction. Piscivorous cichlids possess a repertoire of at least two patterns of prey capture, each of which is characterized by an extreme regularity of the kinematic, pressure, electromyographic and behavioral profiles. The nature and locomotory behavior of the prey, visually analyzed by the predator during the prestrike stalk, determine which of the two preprogrammed patterns is recruited. Agile and elusive prey invariably will elicit a preprogrammed motor output (stereotyped motor pattern) that produces the greatest suction velocities in both ambush and pursuit hunters. The greater the kinematic and suction velocities, the greater the overlap of the firing sequences of antagonistic muscle complexes. The opercular and branchiostegal apparati function as an exceedingly effective anti-backwash device, damping potential fluid oscillations within the oropharynx. Mastication occurs by triphasic movements and actions of muscles of the upper and lower pharyngeal jaws in both ambush and pursuit hunters. The lower pharyngeal jaw is acted upon by a force couple of which the fourth levator externus on one hand and the pharyngocleithralis externus and pharyngohyoideus on the other hand are the antagonistic components. Furthermore, the lower pharyngeal jaw is suspended by a muscular sling, the tension of which can be modified continuously. It is postulated that the switch from insectivorous to piscivorous feeding regimes (and perhaps vice versa) is accomplished by very minor structural and functional modifications, because the modulatory multiplicity and total range of repertories of the feeding machinery of the two trophic groups overlap significantly. Piscivorous cichlids may not have arisen by orthoselection in gradually-changing lineages, but represent the differential success of subsets from a random pool of speciation events. Adaptive features identified as characteristic for piscivory could have evolved in multiple and independent lineages at a punctuational mode and tempo.