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Title: The effects of skull flattening on suchian jaw muscle evolution

Jaw muscles are key features of the vertebrate feeding apparatus. The jaw musculature is housed in the skull whose morphology reflects a compromise between multiple functions, including feeding, housing sensory structures, and defense, and the skull constrains jaw muscle geometry. Thus, jaw muscle anatomy may be suboptimally oriented for the production of bite force. Crocodylians are a group of vertebrates that generate the highest bite forces ever measured with a flat skull suited to their aquatic ambush predatory style. However, basal members of the crocodylian line (e.g.,Prestosuchus) were terrestrial predators with plesiomorphically tall skulls, and thus the origin of modern crocodylians involved a substantial reorganization of the feeding apparatus and its jaw muscles. Here, we reconstruct jaw muscles across a phylogenetic range of crocodylians and fossil suchians to investigate the impact of skull flattening on muscle anatomy. We used imaging data to create 3D models of extant and fossil suchians that demonstrate the evolution of the crocodylian skull, using osteological correlates to reconstruct muscle attachment sites. We found that jaw muscle anatomy in early fossil suchians reflected the ancestral archosaur condition but experienced progressive shifts in the lineage leading to Metasuchia. In early fossil suchians, musculus adductor mandibulae posterior and musculus pterygoideus (mPT) were of comparable size, but by Metasuchia, the jaw musculature is dominated by mPT. As predicted, we found that taxa with flatter skulls have less efficient muscle orientations for the production of high bite force. This study highlights the diversity and evolution of jaw muscles in one of the great transformations in vertebrate evolution.

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Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Anatomical Record
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 2791-2822
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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