A power amplification dyad in seahorses

Corrine Avidan, Steven W. Day, Roi Holzman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Throughout evolution, organisms repeatedly developed elastic elements to power explosive body motions, overcoming ubiquitous limits on the power capacity of fast-contracting muscles. Seahorses evolved such a latch-mediated spring-actuated (LaMSA) mechanism; however, it is unclear how this mechanism powers the two complementary functions necessary for feeding: rapidly swinging the head towards the prey, and sucking water into the mouth to entrain it. Here, we combine flow visualization and hydrodynamic modelling to estimate the net power required for accelerating the suction feeding flows in 13 fish species. We show that the mass-specific power of suction feeding in seahorses is approximately three times higher than the maximum recorded from any vertebrate muscle, resulting in suction flows that are approximately eight times faster than similar-sized fishes. Using material testing, we reveal that the rapid contraction of the sternohyoideus tendons can release approximately 72% of the power needed to accelerate the water into the mouth. We conclude that the LaMSA system in seahorses is powered by two elastic elements, the sternohyoideus and epaxial tendons. These elements jointly actuate the coordinated acceleration of the head and the fluid in front of the mouth. These findings extend the known function, capacity and design of LaMSA systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20230520
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1996
StatePublished - 12 Apr 2023


  • LaMSA
  • elastic energy storage
  • muscle power
  • seahorse
  • suction feeding
  • syngnathidae


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