Most bony fishes have two sets of jaws made mainly of bone. The primary oral jaws open and close the mouth, and a second set of pharyngeal jaws are positioned at the back of the throat. The oral jaws are used to capture and manipulate prey by biting and crushing. The pharyngeal jaws, so-called because they are positioned within the pharynx, are used to further process the food and move it from the mouth to the stomach. Cartilaginous fishes, such as sharks and rays, have one set of oral jaws made mainly of cartilage. They do not have pharyngeal jaws. Generally jaws are articulated and oppose vertically, comprising an upper jaw and a lower jaw and can bear numerous ordered teeth. Bony fishes usually develop only one set of teeth (monophyodont). Cartilaginous fishes grow multiple sets (polyphyodont) and replace teeth as they wear. Jaws probably originated in the pharyngeal arches supporting the gills of jawless fish. The earliest jaws appeared in the now extinct placoderms and spiny sharks during the Silurian, about 430 million years ago. All vertebrate jaws, including the human jaw, evolved from early fish jaws. Jaws use linkage mechanisms. These linkages can be especially common and complex in the head of bony fishes, such as wrasses, which have evolved many specialized feeding mechanisms. Especially advanced are the linkage mechanisms of jaw protrusion. For suction feeding a system of linked four-bar linkages is responsible for the coordinated opening of the mouth and a three-dimensional expansion of the buccal cavity. Other linkages are responsible for protrusion of the premaxilla. Linkage systems are widely distributed in animals. The most thorough overview of the different types of linkages in animals has been provided by M. Muller, who also designed a new classification system, which is especially well suited for biological systems.

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