Mouth Types of Bony Fishes

Fish have evolved to have different types of mouths depending on what their diet is and how they feed. The four different mouth types shown below are all designed to help fish catch their next meal most efficiently. For example, fish that have terminal or protrusible mouths generally feed on other fish. Fish that have superior mouths are generally ambush predators, meaning they generally are hidden and wait for fish to come close to them before they strike. Common examples of this type of predator include the angler fishes. Inferior mouth types generally denote that the fish is a bottom feeder and eats things such as crustaceans or shellfish.

fish anatomy mouth types illustration

 

Examples

Terminal

education tuna mouth example

Scombridae (Thunnus albacares) Yellowfin tuna 
Eleuthera, Bahamas 
The yellowfin tuna diet primarily consists of other fish along with some squids and the occasional crustacean.

Superior

education tarpon mouth example

Megalopidae (Megalops atlanticus) Tarpon 
Aquarium specimen 
Tarpon generally eat schooling fish but they also eat some crustaceans.

Inferior

education honeycomb mouth example

Ostraciidae (Acanthostracion polygonius) Honeycomb cowfish 
Spanish Wells, Bahamas 
Honeycomb cowfish spend their time scavenging for detritus, waste products, or bits of dead and decaying organisms.

Protrusible

education hogfish mouth example

Labridae (Lachnolaimus maximus) Hogfish 
Spanish Wells, Bahamas 
Adult hogfish feed mostly on mollusks or crustaceans.

Prepared by: Amanda Southall