Suction feeding is the most commonly used mechanism of prey capture among aquatic vertebrates. Most previous models of the fluid flow caused by suction feeders involve making several untested assumptions. In this paper, a Chimera overset grids approach is used to solve the governing equations of fluid dynamics in order to investigate the assumptions that prey do not interact with the flow and that the flow can be modelled as a one-dimensional flow. Results show that, for small prey, both neglecting the prey and considering prey interaction give similar calculated forces exerted on the prey. However, as the prey item increases in size toward the size of the gape, its effect on the flow becomes more pronounced. This in turn affects both the magnitude of the hydrodynamic forces imparted to the prey and the time when maximum force is delivered. Maximum force is delivered most quickly to intermediate sized prey, about one-third of mouth diameter, and most slowly to prey less than 7 per cent or greater than 67 per cent of mouth diameter. This suggests that the effect of prey size on the timing of suction forces may have substantial consequences for the feeding ecology of suction feeders that are known to prefer prey between 25 and 50 per cent of mouth diameter. Moreover, for a 15 cm fish with a 15 mm gape, assuming a radial one-dimensional flow field can result in underestimating the maximum force exerted on a 5 mm diameter spherical prey 1 gape distance from the mouth by up to 28.7 per cent.
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