A new paper was published on April in Plos One entitled “Finite Element Analysis of the Cingulata Jaw: An Ecomorphological Approach to Armadillo’s Diets” by Sílvia Serrano-Fochs, Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno, Jordi Marcé-Nogué, Josep Fortuny and Richard A. Fariña. This is a work of the Institut Català de Paleontologia (www.icp.cat), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (www.upc.edu) and Universidad de la República de Uruguay.
In this work Finite element analyses (FEA) were applied to assess the lower jaw biomechanics of cingulate xenarthrans: 14 species of armadillos as well as one Pleistocene pampathere (11 extant taxa and the extinct forms Vassallia, Eutatus and Macroeuphractus). The principal goal of this work is to comparatively assess the biomechanical capabilities of the mandible based on FEA and to relate the obtained stress patterns with diet preferences and variability, in extant and extinct species through an ecomorphology approach. The results of FEA showed that omnivorous species have stronger mandibles than insectivorous species. Moreover, this latter group of species showed high variability, including some similar biomechanical features of the insectivorous Tolypeutes matacus and Chlamyphorus truncatus to those of omnivorous species, in agreement with reported diets that include items other than insects.
The results highlight the need for more detailed studies on the natural history of extant armadillos. FEA proved a powerful tool for biomechanical studies in a comparative framework. And, of course, we are working on it!