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J Dent Res. 1990 Jan;69(1):20-5.

Growth patterns of the rabbit masticatory muscles.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam ACTA, The Netherlands.


The post-natal growth of the masticatory muscles in the rabbit was examined. By means of anatomical dissection and measurement, total muscle length, muscle fiber length, and muscle weight were determined in animals varying in age between one week and 36 months and exhibiting a 50-fold weight increase. Growth data were fitted by linear regression models with facial skull length used as the independent variable. Many deviations occur from size-dependent isometric growth. The muscles can be divided into three groups, according to their pattern of weight increase: The jaw openers grow negatively allometrically, and their contribution to total muscle weight decreases with time; the temporal muscle grows negatively allometrically, but its relative weight proportion remains about the same; the masseter and medial pterygoid muscles have positively allometric growth, and their contribution to total muscle weight increases strongly. Generally, the length of the muscles and of their fibers increases at lower rates than does the length of the facial skull. After weaning, the rate of longitudinal growth drops steeply in some muscles. Total fiber area or physiological cross-section (PCS) of muscles is computed from weight and fiber length. It increases positively allometrically in the jaw closers and negatively allometrically in the jaw openers. In the lateral pterygoid muscle, the increase of PCS changes from negatively- to positively-allometric growth after weaning. The study demonstrates that individual oral muscles follow different patterns of longitudinal and cross-sectional growth, so that their functional capacities (force, range of contraction) and mutual functional relationships are age-dependent.

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