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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 May 19;106(20):8273-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0813156106. Epub 2009 May 4.

Biomechanical assessment of evolutionary changes in the lepidosaurian skull.

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  • 1Department of Engineering, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom.


The lepidosaurian skull has long been of interest to functional morphologists and evolutionary biologists. Patterns of bone loss and gain, particularly in relation to bars and fenestrae, have led to a variety of hypotheses concerning skull use and kinesis. Of these, one of the most enduring relates to the absence of the lower temporal bar in squamates and the acquisition of streptostyly. We performed a series of computer modeling studies on the skull of Uromastyx hardwickii, an akinetic herbivorous lizard. Multibody dynamic analysis (MDA) was conducted to predict the forces acting on the skull, and the results were transferred to a finite element analysis (FEA) to estimate the pattern of stress distribution. In the FEA, we applied the MDA result to a series of models based on the Uromastyx skull to represent different skull configurations within past and present members of the Lepidosauria. In this comparative study, we found that streptostyly can reduce the joint forces acting on the skull, but loss of the bony attachment between the quadrate and pterygoid decreases skull robusticity. Development of a lower temporal bar apparently provided additional support for an immobile quadrate that could become highly stressed during forceful biting.

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