2018 AMI Online Salon

The Pharyngeal Jaws of the Moray Eel

Project Details

  • Artist(s):  Brittany Bennett; Baltimore, Maryland
  • Client: Tim Phelps, David Rini
  • Copyright: © 2018 © Brittany C. Bennett
  • Medium / software used: Graphite pencil, Adobe Photoshop
  • Final presentation format: Poster
  • Primary audience: Educated lay public

Project Description

This illustration provides insight into the pharyngeal jaws of the moray eel. Primarily, it demonstrates how a moray eel uses pharyngeal jaws to capture prey and, secondarily, how this unique morphology evolved from a primitive structure shared by all vertebrates. Images of the musculoskeletal anatomy clarify points of origin and insertion for individual muscles and shows how these muscles work together to control pharyngeal protraction and retraction. Dissection of wet specimens was preformed to observe the jaws and muscles in situ. A three-part diagram teaches how the moray eel’s pharyngeal jaws evolved from a primitive structure into a highly modified one. As eels adapted to dwell in reef crevasses, the skull narrowed and it lost the ability to suction-feed as earlier vertebrates did. The bony pharyngeal jaws, derived from cartilaginous pharyngeal arches, accommodate for the loss of suction by thrusting forward and pulling prey into the mouth.