Postnatal histomorphogenesis of the mandible in the house mouse


Cayetana Martinez-Maza, Department of Paleobiology, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales – CSIC, Jose Gutierrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain. T: + 34 91 5668981; E: and
Jorge Cubo, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Equipe Biominéralisations et Environnements Sédimentaires – UMR7193. 4, Pl. Jussieu BC 19, 75005 Paris, France. T: + 33 14 4273124; E:


The mandible of the house mouse, Mus musculus, is a model structure for the study of the development and evolution of complex morphological systems. This research describes the histomorphogenesis of the house mouse mandible and analyses its biological significance from the first to the eighth postnatal weeks. Histological data allowed us to test a hypothesis concerning modularity in this structure. We measured the bone growth rates by fluorescent labelling and identified the bone tissue types through microscopic analysis of histological cross-sections of the mandible during its postnatal development. The results provide evidence for a modular structure of the mouse mandible, as the alveolar region and the ascending ramus show histological differences throughout ontogeny. The alveolar region increases in length during the first two postnatal weeks by bone growth in the posterior region, while horizontally positioned incisors preclude bone growth in the anterior region. In the fourth postnatal week, growth dynamics shows a critical change. The alveolar region drifts laterally and the ramus becomes more vertical due to the medial growth direction of the coronoid region and the lateral growth of the ventral region of the ramus. Diet changes after weaning are probably involved in these morphological changes. In this way, the development of the masticatory muscles that insert on the ascending ramus may be particularly related to this shape modeling of the house mouse mandible.