The jaw adductor musculature in Triassic stem-group sauropterygians is reconstructed on the basis of a paradigmatic model of muscle architecture (functional equivalence of sarcomeres) and using invariant traits of the anatomy of the trigeminal jaw adductor muscles in extant reptiles. The reconstructed jaw adductor musculature predicts trophic specializations in stem-group sauropterygians. Suction feeding is a component in prey capture for some benthic feeding, as well as for some pelagic feeding taxa. The differentiation of ‘pincer’ jaws is correlated with the potential for rapid, snapping bites. There is some evidence for habitat partitioning among Triassic stem-group sauropterygians with respect to trophic specialization. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2002, 135, 33–63.