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The relationship between skull morphology, masticatory muscle force and cranial skeletal deformation during biting

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JournalAnnals of anatomy-Anatomischer anzeiger
DateAccepted/In press - 28 Nov 2014
DatePublished (current) - Jan 2016
Volume203
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)59-68
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The human skull is gracile when compared to many Middle Pleistocene hominins. It has been argued that it is less able to generate and withstand high masticatory forces, and that the morphology of the lower portion of the modern human face correlates most strongly with dietary characteristics. This study uses geometric morphometrics and finite element analysis (FEA) to assess the relationship between skull morphology, muscle force and cranial deformations arising from biting, which is relevant in understanding how skull morphology relates to mastication. The three-dimensional skull anatomies of 20 individuals were reconstructed from medical computed tomograms. Maximal contractile muscle forces were estimated from muscular anatomical cross-sectional areas (CSAs). Fifty-nine landmarks were used to represent skull morphology. A partial least squares analysis was performed to assess the association between skull shape and muscle force, and FEA was used to compare the deformation (strains) generated during incisor and molar bites in two individuals representing extremes of morphological variation in the sample. The results showed that only the proportion of total muscle CSA accounted for by the temporalis appears associated with skull morphology, albeit weekly. However, individuals with a large temporalis tend to possess a relatively wider face, a narrower, more vertically oriented maxilla and a lower positioning of the coronoid process. The FEAs showed that, despite differences in morphology, biting results in similar modes of deformation for both crania, but with localised lower magnitudes of strains arising in the individual with the narrowest, most vertically oriented maxilla. Our results suggest that the morphology of the maxilla modulates the transmission of forces generated during mastication to the rest of the cranium by deforming less in individuals with the ability to generate proportionately larger temporalis muscle forces.

    Research areas

  • Finite element analysis, Geometric morphometrics, Masticatory function, Modern humans, Skull morphology

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