Jaw shape and mechanical advantage are indicative of diet in Mesozoic mammals

Nuria M Morales Garcia*, Pamela G Gill, Christine M Janis, Emily J Rayfield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Jaw morphology is closely linked to both diet and biomechanical performance, and jaws are one of the most common Mesozoic mammal fossil elements. Knowledge of the dietary and functional diversity of early mammals informs on the ecological structure of palaeocommunities throughout the longest era of mammalian evolution: the Mesozoic. Here, we analyse how jaw shape and mechanical advantage of the masseter (MAM) and temporalis (MAT) muscles relate to diet in 70 extant and 45 extinct mammals spanning the Late Triassic-Late Cretaceous. In extant mammals, jaw shape discriminates well between dietary groups: insectivores have long jaws, carnivores intermediate to short jaws, and herbivores have short jaws. Insectivores have low MAM and MAT, carnivores have low MAM and high MAT, and herbivores have high MAM and MAT. These traits are also informative of diet among Mesozoic mammals (based on previous independent determinations of diet) and set the basis for future ecomorphological studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number242 (2021)
Number of pages14
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2021

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