Most fish rely on water to feed, using suction to capture their prey. A new study, however, shows that snowflake morays can grab and swallow prey on land without water thanks to an extra set of jaws in their throats.
After a moray eel captures prey with its first set of jaws, a second set of "pharyngeal jaws" then reaches out to grasp the struggling prey and pull it down into the moray's throat.
Rita Mehta, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California, Santa Cruz, first described this astonishing feeding mechanism in a 2007 Nature paper.
The new study, published June 7 in the Journal of Experimental Biology, shows that these pharyngeal jaws enable at least one species of moray to feed on land.
"Most fishes really need water to feed. This is the first example of a fish that can feed on land without relying on water," Mehta said.
Reports of snowflake morays coming out of the water to grab crabs on the shore prompted her to take a closer look.