I recently published in Scientific Reports a new paper entitled “A biomechanical approach to understand the ecomorphological relationship between primate mandibles and diet” which deals with the fact that in primates, hard food eaters have stiffer mandibles when compared to those that rely on softer diets. This is a research that I did with my colleagues Thomas Püschel, from The University of Manchester, and Thomas Kaiser from the University of Hamburg.
Altought the relationship between primate mandibular form and diet has been previously analysed by applying a wide array of techniques and approaches, now we proposed a new approach using FEA. Nonetheless, most of these previous studies compared few species and/or infrequently aimed to elucidate function based on an explicit biomechanical framework. In this study, we generated and analysed 31 Finite Element planar models of different primate jaws under different loading scenarios (incisive, canine, premolar and molar bites) to test the hypothesis that there are significant differences in mandibular biomechanical performance due to food categories and/or food hardness.
To demonstrate that the stress distribution is different depending on the diet we used the new methodology proposed by Marcé-Nogué et al. 2016 in “Accounting for differences in element size and homogeneity when comparing Finite Element models: Armadillos as a case study” which facilitates the comprehension and helps us to quantify each FEA result to, for example, do an ancestral reconstruction.
The results obtained in this paper are highly relevant because they show that there is a strong association between mandibular biomechanical performance, mandibular form, food hardness and diet categories and that these associations can be studied using biomechanical techniques rather than focusing solely on morphology.
+ More information in: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-08161-0