[MARMAM] New publication on rorqual whale feeding morphology and behavior

Alex Werth awerth at hsc.edu
Wed Apr 26 10:39:02 PDT 2017

Dear MARMAM readers,

My coauthor Haruka Ito and I are pleased to announce our new article published in early view in The Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology:
Sling, Scoop, and Squirter: Anatomical Features Facilitating Prey Transport, Processing, and Swallowing in Rorqual Whales (Mammalia: Balaenopteridae).
Abstract: Much is known about lunge feeding in balaenopterid whales, but many key aspects of structure, function, and behavior have not yet been explained in detail, especially with regard to concentrating, positioning, and swallowing large aggregations of prey. We describe a novel system of three integrated structural components, all of which are involved in sequential feeding activities (intraoral transport, filtration, and swallowing of prey) that follow lunge-feeding engulfment of prey-laden water in rorquals: (1) a hammock-like muscular sling comprising extrinsic lingual musculature along the midline of the ventral pouch; (2) the flattened scoop-like arrangement of caudal-most baleen plates converging in the oropharynx adjacent to the esophageal opening; and (3) a flow-diverting flange at the posterior dorsum of the lip, by a flow channel at the angle of the mouth. Subsequent to contraction of the ventral pouch and concomitant expulsion of the mouthful of ingested water, these three structures together, we contend, aid in (1) channeling prey posteriorly toward the esophageal opening; (2) concentrating prey as excess water is squeezed from (what is presumed to be) the slurry-like mixture of nektonic and/or planktonic prey and water; and (3) guiding prey into the isthmus of the fauces while simultaneously (4) facilitating expulsion of water. These related functions occur along with, and are in part achieved by, elevation and retraction of the tongue and oral floor. Given their presumed functional role, these systems are best described as a suite of integrated structural adaptations. Anat Rec, 2017. (c) 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Best regards,
Alex Werth
Alexander J. Werth, Ph.D.
Trinkle Professor of Biology
Chair, Department of Biology
Hampden-Sydney College
Box 162, Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943
434-223-6326, fax 434-223-6374

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