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Eels With Whopper Choppers, All The Better To Eat You With


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Eels with whopper choppers, all the better to eat you with

LIKE the predator in the Aliens movies, moray eels thrust a second set of jaws from deep in their throats to seize prey, scientists have discovered.

The animal kingdom is full of innovative mechanisms for ensuring that a meal does not escape and moves swiftly along the digestive tract.

Snakes unhinge their jaws, and most fish - along with some eels - use suction to draw in their victims. Some species, such as the parrotfish, have a second set of teeth-like bones between their gills.

But scientists at the University of California, Davis, were amazed to discover that at least one species of moray has a mobile inner jaw lined with razor-edged, hook-like teeth.

This "raptorial pharyngeal jaw" can thrust forward at lightning speed into the mouth, eliminating any chance a prey might have had of squirming free from the first set of jaws.

The discovery was made based on a hunch, the study, published in the British journal Nature, reports. Two marine biologists, Rita Metha and Peter Wainwright, recorded high-speed videos of muraena retifera, one of 200 or so moray species found in reefs around the world, feeding in a laboratory aquarium. That is when they discovered the inner jaw, which is clearly visible in the film.

To get an inside view of the mechanism, the researchers did an X-ray fluoroscopic analysis. The resulting images gave the first detailed view of the eel's hidden dental apparatus in action.

Almost as remarkable as the lunging jaw is that it went unnoticed for so long.

This could be explained, the authors believe, by the fact moray eels are rarely eaten by humans. They do not turn up often in fishing nets as they stay close to reef crevices.

Video of the jaws in action HERE


Edited by MallacootaPete
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