Document Type




Journal Title

Biological Bulletin

Pub Date



The University of Chicago Press Journal



First Page



Oreochromis aureus, a species of tilapia, is a suspension-feeding fish that employs a pumping action to bring water into its mouth for filtering.To address questions about water flow inside the mouth, we used a microthermistor flow probe to determine the speed of intra-oral flow during suspension feeding in this species before and after surgical removal of gill rakers. Synchronization with high-speed external videotapes of the fish and high-speed video endoscopy inside the oropharyngeal cavity allowed the first correlation of oral actions with intra-oral flow patterns and speeds during feeding. This analysis established the occurrence of a brief reversal of flow (≈80-ms duration) from posterior to anterior in the oropharyngeal cavity prior to every feeding pump (250–500-ms duration). In industrial crossflow filtration, oscillating or pulsatile flow increases filtration performance by enhancing the back-migration of particles from the region near the filter surface to the bulk flow region, thus reducing particle accumulation that can clog the filter. In endoscopic videotapes, these pre-pump reversals, as well as post-pump reversals (≈500-ms duration), were observed to lift mucus and particles from the branchial arches for subsequent transport toward the esophagus. Intra-oral flow speeds were reduced markedly after removal of the gill rakers. We hypothesize that the decrease in crossflow speed during feeding pumps following the removal of gill rakers and mucus could be due to increased loss of water between the anterior branchial arches.