The chain catshark (Scyliorhinus retifer) is a member of one of the most well studied groups of elasmobranchs (Order: Carcharhiniformes), yet its feeding strategy is unknown due to the inaccessible deep water environment in which it lives (greater than 200 m). To investigate the feeding biology of captive S. retifer, high-speed videography was used to document the kinematic events during capture of two differently sized fish pieces, ‘large’ (scaled to the mouth width), and ‘small’ (scaled to one-half the mouth width). Despite a significant delay in the timing of select kinematic variables for large food captures, a multivariate analysis of the feeding behaviour indicated that overall, food capture kinematics and strike behaviour in S. retifer were not statistically different between large and small items (MANOVA, Wilks' Lambda P =0.598, df=4,24). Food capture in S. retifer was suction-dominant, with items being drawn into the mouth about twice the distance that the predator moved. While suction-dominant food capture appears to be an advantage to benthic predators, it contrasts sharply with the phylogenetic position of S. retifer among several ram-feeding carcharinoid sharks including Cephaloscyllium ventriosum, a member of the same family (Scyliorhinidae). Thus, feeding mode in carcharinoid sharks seems to reflect their ecology and does not appear to have been phylogenetically constrained.
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