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Title: Masticatory Loading and Ossification of the Mandibular Symphysis during Anthropoid Origins

An ossified or ‘fused’ mandibular symphysis characterizes the origins of the Anthropoidea, a primate suborder that includes humans. Longstanding debate about the adaptive significance of variation in this jaw joint centers on whether a bony symphysis is stronger than an unfused one spanned by cartilage and ligaments. To provide essential information regarding mechanical performance, intact adult symphyses from representative primates and scandentians were loadedex vivoto simulate stresses during biting and chewing – dorsoventral (DV) shear and lateral transverse bending (‘wishboning’). The anthropoid symphysis requires significantly more force to induce structural failure vs. strepsirrhines and scandentians with unfused joints. In wishboning, symphyseal breakage always occurs at the midline in taxa with unfused conditions, further indicating that an ossified symphysis is stronger than an unfused joint. Greater non-midline fractures among anthropoids suggest that fusion imposes unique constraints on masticatory function elsewhere along the mandible, a phenomenon likely to characterize the evolution of fusion and jaw form throughout Mammalia.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract Objectives

    Variation in primate masticatory form and function has been extensively researched through both morphological and experimental studies. As a result, symphyseal fusion in different primate clades has been linked to either the recruitment of vertically directed balancing‐side muscle force, the timing and recruitment of transversely directed forces, or both. This study investigates the relationship between jaw muscle activity patterns and morphology in extant primates to make inferences about masticatory function in extinct primates, with implications for understanding the evolution of symphyseal fusion.

    Materials and methods

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