Food material properties and mandibular load resistance abilities in large-bodied hominoids.
Numerous comparative studies have sought to demonstrate a functional link between feeding behavior, diet, and mandibular form in primates. In lieu of data on the material properties of foods ingested and masticated, many investigators have relied on qualitative dietary classifications such as "folivore" or "frugivore." Here we provide the first analysis of the relationship between jaw form, dietary profiles, and food material properties in large-bodied hominoids. We employed ratios of area moments of inertia and condylar area to estimate moments imposed on the mandible in order to evaluate and compare the relative ability to counter mandibular loads among central Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii), Virunga mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), and east African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). We used data on elastic modulus (E) of fruit, fracture toughness (R) of fruit, leaves, and non-fruit, non-leaf vegetation, and derived fragmentation indices ( R/E and ER), as proxies for bite force. We generated bending and twisting moments (forcexmoment arm) for various mandibular loading behaviors using food material properties to estimate minimally required bite forces. Based on E and R of foods ingested and masticated, we hypothesized improved resistance to mandibular loads in Pongo p. wurmbii compared to the African apes, and in G. b. beringei compared to Pan t. schweinfurthii. Results reveal that our predictions are borne out only when bite forces are estimated from maximum R of non-fruit, non-leaf vegetation. For all other tissues and material properties results were contrary to our predictions. Importantly, as food material properties change, the moments imposed on the mandible change; this, in turn, alters the entire ratio of relative load resistance to moment. The net effect is that species appear over- or under-designed for the moments imposed on the mandible. Our hypothesis, therefore, is supported only if we accept that maximum R of these vegetative tissues represents the relevant mechanical property influencing the magnitude of neuromuscular activity, food fragmentation, and mandibular morphology. A general implication is that reliable estimates of average and maximum bite forces from food material properties require that the full range of tissues masticated be tested. Synthesizing data on ingestive and masticatory behaviors, the number of chewing cycles associated with a given food, and food mechanical properties, should inform the broader question of which foods and feeding behaviors are most influential on the mandibular loading environment.
Taylor, AB; Vogel, ER; Dominy, NJ
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