Biomechanics of the masticatory apparatus of Pteropus giganteus (Megachiroptera)


G. De Gueldre, Department of Biology, Universiteit Antwerpen (UIA), Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium


Jaw mechanics in Pteropus were studied by means of a three-dimensional model. The model included several parameters of muscle architecture, combined with quantified movement and electromyographical data. Estimates of the nature of the applied forces that act upon the mandible during a chewing cycle, and subsequent estimates of reaction forces at the bite point and joints during the powerstroke, were thus obtained for different food consistencies. The resultant muscle force (relative to the palate) shifts from upward and slightly backward at large gapes to upward and markedly backward at the end of closing. The resultant simultaneously moves anteriorly. During the powerstroke it retains a constant position and orientation along the thickened anterior edge of the coronoid process. The early stages of opening are guided by the slope of the teeth and mandibular fossa; during the remaining part of opening the working line of the resultant crosses the skull behind the joint and thus acquires an opening moment. The bite force has downward and forward components, and a slight transverse component. For a given applied muscular force its magnitude is larger in more posteriorly positioned bite points. Both joints are loaded, the contralateral one more than the ipsilateral. Food consistency affects magnitude and orientation of the applied force, and hence, magnitude and orientation of the bite force and magnitude of the joint reaction forces. The magnitude of masseter activity relative to temporalis activity appears to be the key factor for the orientation of the bite force, and hence for the mechanical optimal position of the food. The adaptive value of the general topography of the masticatory muscles in Pteropus is discussed.