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Raptorial jaws in the throat help moray eels swallow large prey

Overview of attention for article published in Nature, September 2007
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (98th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (82nd percentile)

Mentioned by

6 blogs
91 tweeters
1 Facebook page
3 Wikipedia pages
1 video uploader


45 Dimensions

Readers on

199 Mendeley
1 CiteULike
Raptorial jaws in the throat help moray eels swallow large prey
Published in
Nature, September 2007
DOI 10.1038/nature06062
Pubmed ID

Rita S. Mehta, Peter C. Wainwright


Most bony fishes rely on suction mechanisms to capture and transport prey. Once captured, prey are carried by water movement inside the oral cavity to a second set of jaws in the throat, the pharyngeal jaws, which manipulate the prey and assist in swallowing. Moray eels display much less effective suction-feeding abilities. Given this reduction in a feeding mechanism that is widespread and highly conserved in aquatic vertebrates, it is not known how moray eels swallow large fish and cephalopods. Here we show that the moray eel (Muraena retifera) overcomes reduced suction capacity by launching raptorial pharyngeal jaws out of its throat and into its oral cavity, where the jaws grasp the struggling prey animal and transport it back to the throat and into the oesophagus. This is the first described case of a vertebrate using a second set of jaws to both restrain and transport prey, and is the only alternative to the hydraulic prey transport reported in teleost fishes. The extreme mobility of the moray pharyngeal jaws is made possible by elongation of the muscles that control the jaws, coupled with reduction of adjacent gill-arch structures. The discovery that pharyngeal jaws can reach up from behind the skull to grasp prey in the oral jaws reveals a major innovation that may have contributed to the success of moray eels as apex predators hunting within the complex matrix of coral reefs. This alternative prey transport mode is mechanically similar to the ratcheting mechanisms used in snakes--a group of terrestrial vertebrates that share striking morphological, behavioural and ecological convergence with moray eels.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 91 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 199 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
United States 8 4%
Mexico 2 1%
Japan 2 1%
Canada 2 1%
Brazil 2 1%
Czechia 1 <1%
Israel 1 <1%
Norway 1 <1%
France 1 <1%
Other 4 2%
Unknown 175 88%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 43 22%
Researcher 40 20%
Student > Bachelor 24 12%
Student > Master 16 8%
Professor 15 8%
Other 48 24%
Unknown 13 7%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 135 68%
Environmental Science 17 9%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 9 5%
Earth and Planetary Sciences 7 4%
Engineering 5 3%
Other 7 4%
Unknown 19 10%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 102. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 03 December 2019.
All research outputs
of 14,165,095 outputs
Outputs from Nature
of 71,526 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 13,408,761 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Nature
of 70,769 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 14,165,095 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 98th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 71,526 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 79.0. This one has done well, scoring higher than 81% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 13,408,761 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 98% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 70,769 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done well, scoring higher than 82% of its contemporaries.