• masseter;
  • grazer;
  • browser;
  • hypsodonty;
  • model selection;
  • adaptation;
  • exaptation


The evolution of robust jaws, hypsodont teeth, and large chewing muscles among grazing ruminants is a quintessential example of putative morphological adaptation. However, the degree of correlated evolution (i.e., to what extent the grazer feeding apparatus represents an evolutionary module), especially of soft and hard tissues, remains poorly understood. Recent generation of large datasets and phylogenetic information has made testing hypotheses of correlated evolution possible. We, therefore, test for correlated evolution among various traits of the ruminant masticatory apparatus including tooth crown height, jaw robustness, chewing muscle size, and characters of the molar occlusal surfaces, using phylogenetic and nonphylogenetic comparative methods as well as phylogenetic evolutionary model selection. We find that the large masseter muscles of grazing ruminants evolved with the inclusion of grass in the diet, an increase in the proportion of occlusal enamel bands oriented parallel to the chewing stroke, and possibly hypsodonty. We suggest that the masseter evolved under two evolutionary regimes: i) selection for higher masticatory forces during chewing and ii) flattening of the tooth profile, which resulted in reduced tooth guidance and, thus, a requirement for more chewing muscle activity during each chewing stroke, in agreement with previous research. The linear jaw metrics (depth of the mandibular angle, mandibular angle width, and length of the superficial masseteric scar) all show correlated evolution with hypsodonty and the proportion of enamel bands oriented parallel to the chewing stroke. We suggest that changes in the shape of the mandible represent the combined effects of selection for a reorientation of the chewing stroke, so as to emphasize horizontal translation of the teeth, and accommodation of high-crowned teeth. Our analyses show that the ruminant feeding apparatus is an evolutionary mosaic with its various components showing both correlated and independent evolution. J. Morphol. 275:1093–1102, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.