• masseter muscle;
  • fiber architecture;
  • tree gouging;
  • marmoset;
  • tamarin;
  • callitrichids


Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) and cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) (Callitrichidae, Primates) share a broadly similar diet of fruits, insects, and tree exudates. Common marmosets, however, differ from tamarins by actively gouging trees with their anterior teeth to elicit tree exudate flow. During tree gouging, marmosets produce relatively large jaw gapes, but do not necessarily produce relatively large bite forces at the anterior teeth. We compared the fiber architecture of the masseter muscle in tree-gouging Callithrix jacchus (n = 10) to nongouging Saguinus oedipus (n = 8) to determine whether the marmoset masseter facilitates producing these large gapes during tree gouging. We predict that the marmoset masseter has relatively longer fibers and, hence, greater potential muscle excursion (i.e., a greater range of motion through increased muscle stretch). Conversely, because of the expected trade-off between excursion and force production in muscle architecture, we predict that the cotton-top tamarin masseter has more pinnate fibers and increased physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) as compared to common marmosets. Likewise, the S. oedipus masseter is predicted to have a greater proportion of tendon relative to muscle fiber as compared to the common marmoset masseter. Common marmosets have absolutely and relatively longer masseter fibers than cotton-top tamarins. Given that fiber length is directly proportional to muscle excursion and by extension contraction velocity, this result suggests that marmosets have masseters designed for relatively greater stretching and, hence, larger gapes. Conversely, the cotton-top tamarin masseter has a greater angle of pinnation (but not significantly so), larger PCSA, and higher proportion of tendon. The significantly larger PCSA in the tamarin masseter suggests that their masseter has relatively greater force production capabilities as compared to marmosets. Collectively, these results suggest that the fiber architecture of the common marmoset masseter is part of a suite of features of the masticatory apparatus that facilitates the production of relatively large gapes during tree gouging. J. Morphol. 261:276–285, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.