Functional significance of the mandibular symphysis



The purpose of this investigation was to relate the morphology of connective tissues in the mandibular symphysis to the behavioral and experimental evidence for mobility and mechanical stress at the symphysis. The anatomy of the symphysis was examined histologically in 6 mammalian orders encompassing 22 species. Behavioral and experimental evidence of stress during the power stroke of the chewing cycle correspond with stresses at the symphysis implied by the location and orientation of symphyseal connective tissues. These stresses are: (1) dorsoventral shear of the symphysis due to the transfer of force from balancing to chewing sides, (2) bending of the symphysis causing tension along the inferior and compression along superior borders due to torsion on the dentaries from the jaw closing muscles, and (3) antero-posterior shear of the symphysis due to an anteriorly directed stress on the chewing side. Interspecific comparisons suggest that leaf eaters can resist greater dorsoventral shear than fruit or insect eaters, but no correlations exist between diet and bending or antero-posterior shear. This suggests that chewing leaves requires larger biting forces.