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Keywords:

  • biomechanics;
  • facial buttresses;
  • feeding;
  • hominins;
  • mastication

Abstract

Hypotheses regarding patterns of stress, strain and deformation in the craniofacial skeleton are central to adaptive explanations for the evolution of primate craniofacial form. The complexity of craniofacial skeletal morphology makes it difficult to evaluate these hypotheses with in vivo bone strain data. In this paper, new in vivo bone strain data from the intraorbital surfaces of the supraorbital torus, postorbital bar and postorbital septum, the anterior surface of the postorbital bar, and the anterior root of the zygoma are combined with published data from the supraorbital region and zygomatic arch to evaluate the validity of a finite-element model (FEM) of a macaque cranium during mastication. The behavior of this model is then used to test hypotheses regarding the overall deformation regime in the craniofacial haft of macaques. This FEM constitutes a hypothesis regarding deformation of the facial skeleton during mastication. A simplified verbal description of the deformation regime in the macaque FEM is as follows. Inferior bending and twisting of the zygomatic arches about a rostrocaudal axis exerts inferolaterally directed tensile forces on the lateral orbital wall, bending the wall and the supraorbital torus in frontal planes and bending and shearing the infraorbital region and anterior zygoma root in frontal planes. Similar deformation regimes also characterize the crania of Homo and Gorilla under in vitro loading conditions and may be shared among extant catarrhines. Relatively high strain magnitudes in the anterior root of the zygoma suggest that the morphology of this region may be important for resisting forces generated during feeding.