Prey handling using whole-body fluid dynamics in batoids
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Zoology : analysis of complex systems
, p. 47-57
University of Antwerp
Fluid flow generated by body movements is a foraging tactic that has been exploited by many benthic species. In this study, the kinematics and hydrodynamics of prey handling behavior in little skates, Leucoraja erinacea, and round stingrays, Urobatis halleri, are compared using kinematics and particle image velocimetry. Both species use the body to form a tent to constrain the prey with the pectoral fin edges pressed against the substrate. Stingrays then elevate the head, which increases the volume between the body and the substrate to generate suction, while maintaining pectoral fin contact with the substrate. Meanwhile, the tip of the rostrum is curled upwards to create an opening where fluid is drawn under the body, functionally analogous to suction-feeding fishes. Skates also rotate the rostrum upwards although with the open rostral sides and the smaller fin area weaker fluid flow is generated. However, skates also use a rostral strike behavior in which the rostrum is rapidly rotated downwards pushing fluid towards the substrate to potentially stun or uncover prey. Thus, both species use the anterior portion of the body to direct fluid flow to handle prey albeit in different ways, which may be explained by differences in morphology. Rostral stiffness and pectoral fin insertion onto the rostrum differ between skates and rays and this corresponds to behavioral differences in prey handling resulting in distinct fluid flow patterns. The flexible muscular rostrum and greater fin area of stingrays allow more extensive use of suction to handle prey while the stiff cartilaginous rostrum of skates lacking extensive fin insertion is used as a paddle to strike prey as well as to clear away sand cover.