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Evolution and Coordination of Feeding Muscle Activity Patterns in Mammals

During chewing, the jaw muscles of mammals exhibit rhythmic coordination to move the jaw and generate forces to break down the food.

These muscles are also coordinated with those that move the tongue and hyoid. Although some similarities in the motor patterns underlying this coordination are apparent in most mammals sampled to date, there appear to be just as many notable differences among species. In ongoing research across a variety of species, we are investigating the coordination and evolution of feeding motor patterns in mammals. Some of our work suggests a strong link between jaw-muscle activity patterns and diet and morphology irrespective of phylogeny, and in some cases, motor patterns are highly conserved across species.

Selected Publications

  • Vinyard, CJ, SH Williams, CE Wall, AH Doherty, AW Crompton, WL Hylander. 2011. A preliminary analysis of correlations between chewing motor patterns and mandibular morphology across mammals. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 260-270.
  • Williams, SH, CJ Vinyard, CE Wall, AH Doherty, AW Crompton, WL Hylander. 2011. A preliminary analysis of correlated evolution in mammalian chewing motor patterns. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51:247-259.
  • Hylander WL, CJ Vinyard, CE Wall, SH Williams, KR Johnson. 2011. Functional and Evolutionary Significance of the Recruitment and Firing Patterns of the Jaw Adductors during chewing in Verreauxi’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 145: 531-547.
  • Konow, NK, A Herrel, CF Ross, SH Williams, RZ German, CPJ Sanford, C Gintof. 2011. Evolution of Muscle Activity Patterns Driving Motions of the Jaw and Hyoid during Chewing in Gnathostomes. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 235-246.
  • Williams SH, CJ Vinyard, CE Wall and WL Hylander. 2007. Masticatory motor patterns in ungulates: a quantitative assessment of jaw-muscle coordination in goats, alpacas and horses. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology 307A: 226-240.

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