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J Morphol. 2000 Jul;245(1):51-66.

Strain in the galago facial skull.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois 60611-3008, USA.


Little experimental work has been directed at understanding the distribution of stresses along the facial skull during routine masticatory behaviors. Such information is important for understanding the functional significance of the mammalian circumorbital region. In this study, bone strain was recorded along the dorsal interorbit, postorbital bar, and mandibular corpus in Otolemur garnettii and O. crassicaudatus (greater galagos) during molar chewing and biting. We determined principal-strain magnitudes and directions, compared peak shear-strain magnitudes between various regions of the face, and compared galago strain patterns with similar experimental data for anthropoids. This suite of analyses were used to test the facial torsion model (Greaves [1985] J Zool (Lond) 207:125-136; [1991] Zool J Linn Soc 101:121-129; [1995] Functional morphology in vertebrate paleontology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p 99-115). A comparison of galago circumorbital and mandibular peak strains during powerful mastication indicates that circumorbital strains are very low in magnitude. This demonstrates that, as in anthropoids, the strepsirhine circumorbital region is highly overbuilt for countering routine masticatory loads. The fact that circumorbital peak-strain magnitudes are uniformly low in both primate suborders undermines any model that emphasizes the importance of masticatory stresses as a determinant of circumorbital form, function, and evolution. Preliminary data also suggest that the difference between mandibular and circumorbital strains is greater in larger-bodied primates. This pattern is interpreted to mean that sufficient cortical bone must exist in the circumorbital region to prevent structural failure due to nonmasticatory traumatic forces. During unilateral mastication, the direction of epsilon(1) at the galago dorsal interorbit indicates the presence of facial torsion combined with bending in the frontal plane. Postorbital bar principal-strain directions during mastication are oriented, on average, very close to 45 degrees relative to the skull's long axis, much as predicted by the facial torsion model. When chewing shifts from one side of the face to the other, there is a characteristic reversal or flip-flop in principal-strain directions for both the interorbit and postorbital bar. Although anthropoids also exhibit an interorbital reversal pattern, peak-strain directions for this clade are opposite those for galagos. The presence of such variation may be due to suborder differences in relative balancing-side jaw-muscle force recruitment. Most importantly, although the strain-direction data for the galago circumorbital region offer support for the occurrence of facial torsion, the low magnitude of these strains suggests that this loading pattern may not be an important determinant of circumorbital morphology.

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