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J Exp Biol. 2010 Jul 1;213(Pt 13):2266-72. doi: 10.1242/jeb.030213.

Chewing rates among domestic dog breeds.

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Department of Biologic and Materials Sciences, School of Dentistry, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1078, USA.


The mammalian masticatory rhythm is produced by a brainstem timing network. The rhythm is relatively fixed within individual animals but scales allometrically with body mass (M(b)) across species. It has been hypothesized that sensory feedback and feed-forward adjust the rhythm to match the jaw's natural resonance frequency, with allometric scaling being an observable consequence. However, studies performed with adult animals show that the rhythm is not affected by jaw mass manipulations, indicating that either developmental or evolutionary mechanisms are required for allometry to become manifest. The present study was performed to tease out the relative effects of development versus natural selection on chewing rate allometry. Thirty-one dog breeds and 31 mass-matched non-domestic mammalian species with a range in M(b) from approximately 2 kg to 50 kg were studied. Results demonstrated that the chewing rhythm did not scale with M(b) among dog breeds (R=0.299, P>0.10) or with jaw length (L(j)) (R=0.328, P>0.05). However, there was a significant relationship between the chewing rhythm and M(b) among the non-domestic mammals (R=0.634, P<0.001). These results indicate that scaling is not necessary in the adult animal. We conclude that the central timing network and related sensorimotor systems may be necessary for rhythm generation but they do not explain the 1/3rd to 1/4th allometric scaling observed among adult mammals. The rhythm of the timing network is either adjusted to the physical parameters of the jaw system during early development only, is genetically determined independently of the jaw system or is uniquely hard-wired among dogs and laboratory rodents.

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