Functional correlates of the position of the axis of rotation of the mandible duringchewing in non-human primates
Terhune, Claire E.
Taylor, Andrea B.
Ross, Callum F.
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The location of the axis of rotation (AoR) of the mandible was quantified using the helical axis (HA) in eight individuals from three species of nonhuman primates: Papio anubis, Cebus apella, and Macaca mulatta. These data were used to test three hypotheses regarding the functional significance of anteroposterior condylar translation – an AoR located inferior to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) – during chewing: minimizing impingement of the gonial region on cervical soft tissue structures during jaw opening; avoiding stretching of the inferior alveolar neurovascular bundle (IANB); and increasing jaw-elevator muscle torques. The results reveal that the HA is located near the occlusal plane in Papio and Cebus, but closer to the condyle in Macaca; is located anteroinferior to the TMJ during both opening and closing in Papio, as well as during opening in Macaca and Cebus; and varies in its location during closing in Macaca and Cebus. The impingement hypothesis is not supported by interspecific variation in HA location: species with larger gonial angles like Cebus do not have more inferiorly located HAs than species with more obtuse mandibular angles like Papio. However, intraspecific variation provides some support for the impingement hypothesis. The HA seldom passes near or through the lingula, falsifying the hypothesis that its location is determined by the sphenomandibular ligament, and the magnitudes of strain associated with a HA at the TMJ would not be large enough to cause problematic stretching of the IANB. HA location does affect muscle moment arms about the TMJ, with implications for the torque generation capability of the jaw-elevator muscles. In Cebus, a HA farther away from the TMJ is associated with larger jaw-elevator muscle moment arms about the joint than if it were at the TMJ. The effects of HA location on muscle strain and muscle moment arms are largest at large gapes and smallest at low gapes, suggesting that if HA location is of functional significance for primate feeding system performance, it is more likely to be in relation to large gape feeding behaviors than chewing. Its presence in humans is most parsimoniously interpreted as a primitive retention from nonhuman primate ancestors and explanations for the presence of AP condylar translation in humans need not invoke either the uniqueness of human speech or upright posture.