Fish research at Washington State University could help scientists better understand some developmental disorders that cause facial deformities.

James CooperJim Cooper, a WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of biological sciences, studies “jaw protrusion,” a biomechanical ability shared by many fish. For a fish, pushing its jaw out allows it to more easily catch prey, and is an evolutionary advantage comparable with the ability of most birds to fly, Cooper said. The difference is, there’s about twice as many fish with the ability as there are living bird species.

“If you’re talking about biomechanical abilities that have been useful in terms of promoting diversification of lots of species, jaw protrusion is a champ,” he said.

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