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  1. null (Ed.)
    Synopsis Fish perform many complex manipulation behaviors without hands or flexible muscular tongues, instead relying on more than 20 movable skeletal elements in their highly kinetic skulls. How fish use their skulls to accomplish these behaviors, however, remains unclear. Most previous mechanical models have represented the fish skull using one or more planar four-bar linkages, which have just a single degree of freedom (DoF). In contrast, truncated-cone hydrodynamic models have assumed up to five DoFs. In this study, we introduce and validate a 3D mechanical linkage model of a fish skull that incorporates the pectoral girdle and mandibular and hyoid arches. We validate this model using an in vivo motion dataset of suction feeding in channel catfish and then use this model to quantify the DoFs in the fish skull, to categorize the motion patterns of the cranial linkage during feeding, and to evaluate the association between these patterns and food motion. We find that the channel catfish skull functions as a 17-link, five-loop parallel mechanism. Despite having 19 potential DoFs, we find that seven DoFs are sufficient to describe most of the motion of the cranial linkage, consistent with the fish skull functioning as a multi-DoF, manipulation system. Channel catfish use this linkage to generate three different motion patterns (rostrocaudal wave, caudorostral wave, and compressive wave), each with its own associated food velocity profile. These results suggest that biomechanical manipulation systems must have a minimum number of DoFs to effectively control objects, whether in water or air. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Synopsis Most predatory ray-finned fishes swallow their food whole, which can pose a significant challenge, given that prey items can be half as large as the predators themselves. How do fish transport captured food from the mouth to the stomach? Prior work indicates that, in general, fish use the pharyngeal jaws to manipulate food into the esophagus, where peristalsis is thought to take over. We used X-Ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology to track prey transport in channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). By reconstructing the 3D motions of both the food and the catfish, we were able to track how the catfish move food through the head and into the stomach. Food enters the oral cavity at high velocities as a continuation of suction and stops in the approximate location of the branchial basket before moving in a much slower, more complex path toward the esophagus. This slow phase coincides with little motion in the head and no substantial mouth opening or hyoid depression. Once the prey is in the esophagus, however, its transport is surprisingly tightly correlated with gulping motions (hyoid depression, girdle retraction, hypaxial shortening, and mouth opening) of the head. Although the transport mechanism itself remains unknown, to our knowledge, this is the first description of synchrony between cranial expansion and esophageal transport in a fish. Our results provide direct evidence of prey transport within the esophagus and suggest that peristalsis may not be the sole mechanism of esophageal transport in catfish. 
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