• basal Ceratopsia;
  • masticatory system;
  • mandibular mechanics;
  • leverage;
  • bite force


Ceratopsian dinosaurs were a dominant group of herbivores in Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystems. We hypothesize that an understanding of the feeding system will provide important insight into the evolutionary success of these animals. The mandibular mechanics of eight genera of basal ceratopsians was examined to understand the variability in shape of the jaws and the early evolution of the masticatory system in Ceratopsia. Data were collected on lever arms, cranial angles and tooth row lengths. The results indicate that psittacosaurids had higher leverage at the beak and in the rostral part of the tooth row than basal neoceratopsians, but lower leverage in the caudal part of the tooth row. Although the vertebrate mandible is generally considered as a third-class lever, that of basal neoceratopsians acted as a second-class lever at the caudal part of the tooth row, as is also true in ceratopsids. When total input force from the mandibular adductor muscles on both sides of the skull is considered, the largest bite force in basal ceratopsian tooth rows was exerted in the caudal part of the tooth row at the caudal extremity of the zone with near-maximum input force. Medially positioned teeth generate higher leverage than laterally positioned teeth. The largest bite force in all basal ceratopsians is smaller than the maximum input force, a limit imposed by the morphology of the basal ceratopsian masticatory system. In ceratopsids, caudal extension of the tooth row resulted in a much larger bite force, even exceeding the maximum input force. Anat Rec, 292:1352–1369, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.