The Role of the Sutures in Biomechanical Dynamic Simulation of a Macaque Cranial Finite Element Model: Implications for the Evolution of Craniofacial Form



The global biomechanical impact of cranial sutures on the face and cranium during dynamic conditions is not well understood. It is hypothesized that sutures act as energy absorbers protecting skulls subjected to dynamic loads. This hypothesis predicts that sutures have a significant impact on global patterns of strain and cranial structural stiffness when analyzed using dynamic simulations; and that this global impact is influenced by suture material properties. In a finite element model developed from a juvenile Rhesus macaque cranium, five different sets of suture material properties for the zygomaticotemporal sutures were tested. The static and dynamic analyses produced similar results in terms of strain patterns and reaction forces, indicating that the zygomaticotemporal sutures have limited impact on global skull mechanics regardless of loading design. Contrary to the functional hypothesis tested in this study, the zygomaticotemporal sutures did not absorb significant amounts of energy during dynamic simulations regardless of loading speed. It is alternatively hypothesized that sutures are mechanically significant only insofar as they are weak points on the cranium that must be shielded from unduly high stresses so as not to disrupt vitally important growth processes. Thus, sutural and overall cranial form in some vertebrates may be optimized to minimize or otherwise modulate sutural stress and strain. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.