Jaw muscles and the skull in mammals: the biomechanics of mastication. Conference Paper uri icon


  • Among non-mammalian vertebrates, rigid skulls with tight sutural junctions are associated with high levels of cranial loading. The rigid skulls of mammals presumably act to resist the stresses of mastication. The pig, Sus scrofa, is a generalized ungulate with a diet rich in resistant foods. This report synthesizes previous work using strain gages bonded to the bones and sutures of the braincase, zygomatic arch, jaw joint, and mandible with new studies on the maxilla. Strains were recorded during unrestrained mastication and/or in anesthetized pigs during muscle stimulation. Bone strains were 100-1000 micro epsilon, except in the braincase, but sutural strains were higher, regardless of region. Strain regimes were specific to different regions, indicating that theoretical treatment of the skull as a unitary structure is probably incorrect. Muscle contraction, especially the masseter, caused strain patterns by four mechanisms: (1) direct loading of muscle attachment areas; (2) a compressive reaction force at the jaw joint; (3) bite force loading on the snout and mandible; and (4) movement causing new points of contact between mandible and cranium. Some expected patterns of loading were not seen. Most notably, strains did not differ for right and left chewing, perhaps because pigs have bilateral occlusion and masseter activity.

published proceedings

  • Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Herring, S. W., Rafferty, K. L., Liu, Z. J., & Marshall, C. D.

citation count

  • 125

complete list of authors

  • Herring, SW||Rafferty, KL||Liu, ZJ||Marshall, CD

publication date

  • December 2001