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Moringua edwardsi (Moringuidae: Anguilliformes): cranial specialization for head-first burrowing?
De Schepper, N.; Adriaens, D.; De Kegel, B. (2005). Moringua edwardsi (Moringuidae: Anguilliformes): cranial specialization for head-first burrowing? J. Morphol. (1931) 266(3): 356-368. dx.doi.org/10.1002/jmor.10383
In: Journal of Morphology (1931). The Wistar Institute Press/Wiley: Philadelphia, Pa . ISSN 0362-2525, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Anguilliformes [WoRMS]; Marine
Author keywords
    Anguilliformes; convergent evolution; adaptation; burrowing; cranialmorphology

Authors  Top 
  • De Schepper, N.
  • Adriaens, D., more
  • De Kegel, B., more

Abstract
    The order Anguilliformes forms a natural group of eel-like species. Moringua edwardsi (Moringuidae) is of special interest because of its peculiar fossorial lifestyle: this species burrows head-first. Externally pronounced morphological specializations for a fossorial lifestyle include: reduced eyes, lack of color, low or absent paired vertical fins, elongated, cylindrical body, reduced head pores of the lateral line system, etc. Many fossorial amphibians, reptiles, and even mammals have evolved similar external specializations related to burrowing. The present study focuses on osteological and myological features of M. edwardsi in order to evaluate the structural modifications that may have evolved as adaptations to burrowing. Convergent evolutionary structures and possible relations with head-first burrowing, miniaturization, feeding habits, etc., were investigated. Body elongation, reduction of the eyes, modified cranial lateral line system, and modified skull shape (pointed though firm) can be considered specializations for head-first burrowing. Hyperossification can probably be regarded more as a specialization to both head-first burrowing and feeding, even though an impact of miniaturization cannot be excluded. Hypertrophied adductor mandibulae muscles and the enlarged coronoid process can be associated with both feeding requirements (it enhances bite forces necessary for their predatory behavior) and with a burrowing lifestyle, as well as miniaturization.

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