The morphology of the masticatory apparatus facilitates muscle force production at wide jaw gapes in tree-gouging common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)

Eng CM, Ward SR, Vinyard CJ, Taylor AB.
J Exp Biol, 2009 212(Pt 24):4040-55.


Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) generate wide jaw gapes when gouging trees with their anterior teeth to elicit tree exudate flow. Closely related cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) do not gouge trees but share similar diets including exudates. Maximizing jaw opening theoretically compromises the bite forces that marmosets can generate during gouging. To investigate how jaw-muscle architecture and craniofacial position impact muscle performance during gouging, we combine skull and jaw-muscle architectural features to model muscle force production across a range of jaw gapes in these two species. We incorporate joint mechanics, resting sarcomere length and muscle architecture estimates from the masseter and temporalis to model muscle excursion, sarcomere length and relative tension as a function of joint angle. Muscle excursion from occlusion to an estimated maximum functional gape of 55 deg. was smaller in all regions of the masseter and temporalis of C. jacchus compared with S. oedipus except the posterior temporalis. As a consequence of reduced muscle excursion distributed over more sarcomeres in series (i.e. longer fibers), sarcomere length operating ranges are smaller in C. jacchus jaw muscles across this range of gapes. This configuration allows C. jacchus to act on a more favorable portion of the length-tension curve at larger gapes and thereby generate relatively greater tension in these muscles compared with S. oedipus. Our results suggest that biting performance during tree gouging in common marmosets is improved by a musculoskeletal configuration that reduces muscle stretch at wide gapes while simultaneously facilitating comparatively large muscle forces at the extremes of jaw opening.

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