The rate and magnitude of buccal expansion are thought to determine the pattern of water flow and the change in buccal pressure during suction feeding. Feeding events that generate higher flow rates should induce stronger suction pressure and allow predators to draw prey from further away. We tested these expectations by measuring the effects of prey capture kinematics on suction pressure and the effects of the latter on the distance from which prey were drawn-termed suction distance. We simultaneously, but not synchronously, recorded 500-Hz video and buccal pressure from 199 sequences of four largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, feeding on goldfish. From the video, we quantified several kinematic variables associated with the head and jaws of the feeding bass that were hypothesized to affect pressure. In a multiple regression, kinematic data accounted for 79.7% of the variation among strikes in minimum pressure. Faster mouth opening and hyoid depression were correlated with lower pressures, a larger area under the pressure curve, and a faster rate of pressure reduction. In contrast, buccal pressure variables explained only 16.5% of the variation in suction distance, and no single pressure variable had a significant relationship with suction distance. Thus, although expected relationships between head kinematics and buccal pressure were confirmed, suction distance was only weakly related to buccal pressure. Three explanations are considered. First, bass may not attempt to maximize the distance from which prey are drawn. Second, the response of prey items to suction-induced flow depends on prey behavior and orientation and is, therefore, subject to considerable variation. Third, previous theoretical work indicates that water velocity decays exponentially with distance from the predator's mouth, indicating that variation among strikes in flow at the mouth opening is compressed away from the mouth. These findings are consistent with other recent data and suggest that suction distance is a poor metric of suction feeding performance.
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