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The range of atlanto-occipital joint motion in cetaceans reflects their feeding behavior.

07:00 EST 8th November 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "The range of atlanto-occipital joint motion in cetaceans reflects their feeding behavior."

The cetaceans display a wide variety of lifestyles, especially with regard to their feeding behavior. However, the evolutionary process of the feeding behavior in cetaceans is still poorly understood, in part because reconstructing the feeding behavior of extinct taxa remains difficult. In cetaceans, cranium mobility relative to the trunk largely depends on the range of motion permitted by the atlanto-occipital joint, given the lack of flexibility of the cervical series. In this study, we examined 56 extant cetacean skeletal specimens from 30 species in 25 genera and nine families in order to investigate the relationships between anatomical traits and feeding behavior. Our results suggest that the range of dorso-ventral motion allowed by the atlanto-occipital joint (ROM) depends on prey habitat and the feeding technique of cetaceans. Cetaceans feeding on benthic/demersal prey had a relatively large ROM compared with those feeding on pelagic prey. In addition, ROM was largest in raptorial feeders, intermediate in suction feeders, and smallest in ram-filter feeders. Among raptorial feeders, ROM tended to be larger in taxa that facultatively tear off the prey's flesh compared with taxa that swallow their prey whole. Therefore, we conclude that ROM is a powerful tool to reliably reconstruct the feeding behavior of extinct cetacean taxa.

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This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Journal of anatomy
ISSN: 1469-7580
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