Cranial myology and bite force performance of Erlikosaurus andrewsi: a novel approach for digital muscle reconstructions



Stephan Lautenschlager, School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Wills Memorial Building, Queens Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK.E:


The estimation of bite force and bite performance in fossil and extinct animals is a challenging subject in palaeontology and is highly dependent on the reconstruction of the cranial myology. Furthermore, the morphology and arrangement of the adductor muscles considerably affect feeding processes and mastication and thus also have important dietary and ecological ramifications. However, in the past, the reconstruction of the (cranial) muscles was restricted to the identification of muscle attachment sites or simplified computer models. This study presents a detailed reconstruction of the adductor musculature of the Cretaceous therizinosaur Erlikosaurus andrewsi based on a stepwise and iterative approach. The detailed, three-dimensional models of the individual muscles allow for more accurate measurements of the muscle properties (length, cross-section, attachment angle and volume), from which muscle and bite force estimates are calculated. Bite force estimations are found to be the lowest at the tip of the snout (43–65 N) and respectively higher at the first (59–88 N) and last tooth (90–134 N) position. Nevertheless, bite forces are comparatively low for E. andrewsi, both in actual numbers as well as in comparison with other theropod dinosaurs. The results further indicate that the low bite performance was mainly used for leaf-stripping and plant cropping, rather than active mastication or chewing processes. Muscle and thus bite force in E. andrewsi (and most likely all therizinosaurs) is considerably constrained by the cranial anatomy and declines in derived taxa of this clade. This trend is reflected in the changes of dietary preferences from carnivory to herbivory in therizinosaurs.