Send to

Choose Destination
J Morphol. 2009 Nov;270(11):1338-47. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10761.

Gape and bite force in the rodents Onychomys leucogaster and Peromyscus maniculatus: does jaw-muscle anatomy predict performance?

Author information

Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens, Ohio 45701, USA.


Compared with the deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus, the grasshopper mouse, Onychomys leucogaster, exhibits modifications in its jaw-muscle architecture that promote wide gapes and large bite forces at wide gapes to prey upon large vertebrate prey. In this study, we determine whether jaw-muscle anatomy predicts gape and biting performance in O. leucogaster, and we also assess the influence of gape on bite force in the two species. Although O. leucogaster has an absolutely longer jaw, which facilitates larger gapes, maximum passive gape is similar in both species, averaging approximately 12.5 mm. Thus, when scaled to jaw length, O. leucogaster has a smaller maximum passive gape. These results suggest that predatory behaviors of O. leucogaster may not require remarkably large gapes. On the other hand, both absolute and relative bite forces exerted by O. leucogaster are significantly larger than those of P. maniculatus. The largest bite forces in both species occur at 5.0 mm of gape at the incisors, or 40% of maximum gape. Although bite force in both species decreases at larger gapes, O. leucogaster does maintain a larger percentage of maximum bite force at gapes larger than 40% of maximum passive gape. Therefore, although structural modifications in the masticatory apparatus of O. leucogaster may constrain gape, they may help to maintain bite force at large gapes. These results suggest that increases in gape differentially influence the length-tension properties of the jaw muscles in the two species. Finally, these results highlight the importance of considering the effect of muscle stretch on force production in comparative studies of bite force. As a first approximation, it appears that gapes of 40-50% of maximum gape in rodents optimizes bite force production at the incisors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center