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A digital dissection of two teleost fishes: comparative functional anatomy of the cranial musculoskeletal system in pike (Esox lucius) and eel (Anguilla anguilla)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-204
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number2
Early online date30 May 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 29 Mar 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 30 May 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Aug 2019


Advances in X-ray computed tomography (CT) have led to a rise in the use of non-destructive imaging methods in comparative anatomy. Among these is contrast-enhanced CT scanning, which employs chemical stains to visualize soft tissues. Specimens may then be 'digitally dissected', producing detailed, three-dimensional digital reconstructions of the soft- and hard-tissue anatomy, allowing examination of anatomical structures in situ and making accurate measurements (lengths, volumes, etc.). Here, we apply this technique to two species of teleost fish, providing one of the first comprehensive three-dimensional (3D) descriptions of teleost cranial soft tissue and quantifying differences in muscle anatomy that may be related to differences in feeding ecology. Two species with different feeding ecologies were stained, scanned and imaged to create digital 3D musculoskeletal reconstructions: Esox lucius (Northern Pike), predominantly a suction feeder; and Anguilla anguilla (European eel), which captures prey predominantly by biting. Muscle cross-sectional areas were calculated and compared between taxa, focusing on muscles that serve important roles in feeding. The adductor mandibulae complex - used in biting - was larger in Esox than Anguilla relative to head size. However, the overall architecture of the adductor mandibulae was also very different between the two species, with that of Anguilla better optimized for delivering forceful bites. Levator arcus palatini and sternohyoideus - which are used in suction feeding - are larger in Esox, whereas the levator operculi is larger in Anguilla. Therefore, differences in the size of functionally important muscles do not necessarily correlate neatly with presumed differences in feeding mode.

Additional information

© 2019 Anatomical Society.

    Research areas

  • contrast-enhanced CT, cranial osteology, feeding, myology, Teleostei



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