Coordination of feeding, locomotor and visual systems in parrotfishes (Teleostei: Labridae). Academic Article uri icon


  • Fishes require complex coordinated motions of the jaws, body and fins during feeding in order to successfully execute the strike or bite and then move away from the predation site. In conjunction with locomotor systems, sensory modalities guide coordinated feeding behavior, with vision playing an important role in many fishes. Although often studied separately, the locomotor, feeding and visual systems have not previously been examined together during fish feeding. To explore feeding coordination, we examined the kinematics of feeding behavior in two species of herbivorous parrotfish, Sparisoma radians and Scarus quoyi, which exhibit different single bite and repetitive bite strategies. Kinematic data on pectoral fin movements and body position show distinctive differences in strategies for the approach and post-strike motion between these species. Sparisoma and Scarus exhibited significant differences in the magnitude of jaw protrusion, time to maximum jaw protrusion, cranial elevation, and order of events in the feeding sequence. Oculomotor data show that both species orient the pupil forward and downward directed at the site of jaw contact until 100 ms before the bite, at which point the visual field is rotated laterally. Combinations of kinematic variables show repeated patterns of synchrony (onset and duration) for the approach to the food (distance, velocity, eye movement), prey capture (eye movement, jaw movement, fin movement) and post-capture maneuvering (fin movement, distance). Kinematic analyses of multiple functional systems reveal coordination mechanisms for detecting and approaching prey and executing the rapid opening and closing of the jaws during acquisition of food. Comparison of the coordination of feeding, swimming and sensory systems among fish species can elucidate alternative coordination strategies involved in herbivory in coral reef fishes.

publication date

  • September 2005