In vivo function of the craniofacial haft: the interorbital "pillar"

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2001 Oct;116(2):108-39. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.1106.


The craniofacial haft resists forces generated in the face during feeding, but the importance of these forces for the form of the craniofacial haft remains to be determined. In vivo bone strain data were recorded from the medial orbital wall in an owl monkey (Aotus), rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), and a galago (Otolemur) during feeding. These data were used to determine whether: the interorbital region can be modeled as a simple beam under bending or shear; the face is twisting on the brain case during unilateral biting or mastication; the interorbital "pillar" is being axially compressed during incisor loading and both axially compressed and laterally bent during mastication; and the interorbital "pillar" transmits axial compressive forces from the toothrow to the braincase. The strain data reveal that the interorbital region cannot be modeled as a anteroposteriorly oriented beam bent superiorly in the sagittal plane during incision or mastication. The strain orientations recorded in the majority of experiments are concordant with those predicted for a short beam under shear, although the anthropoids displayed evidence of multiple loading regimes in the medial orbital wall. Strain orientation data corroborate the hypothesis that the strepsirrhine face is twisted during mastication. The hypothesis that the interorbital region is a member in a rigid frame subjected to axial compression during mastication receives some support. The hypothesis that the interorbital region is a member in a rigid frame subjected to lateral bending during mastication is supported by the epsilon1/absolute value epsilon2 ratio data but not by the strain orientation data. The timing of peak shear strains in the medial orbital wall of anthropoids does not bear a consistent relationship to the timing of peak shear strain in the mandibular corpus, suggesting that bite force is not the only external force influencing the medial orbital wall. Strain orientation data suggest the existence of two distinct loading regimes, possibly associated with masseter or medial pterygoid contraction. Regardless of the loading regime, all taxa showed low strain magnitudes in the medial orbital wall relative to the anterior root of the zygoma and the mandibular corpus. The strain gradients documented here and elsewhere suggest that, in anthropoids at least, local effects of external forces are more important than a single global loading regime. The low strain magnitudes in the medial orbital wall and in other thin bony plates around the orbit suggest that these structures are not optimally designed for resisting feeding forces. It is hypothesized that their function is to provide rigid support and protection for soft-tissue structures such as the nasal epithelium, the brain, meninges, and the eye and its adnexa. In contrast with the face of Otolemur, which appears to be subjected to a single predominant loading regime, anthropoids may experience different loading regimes in different parts of the face. This implies that the anthropoid and strepsirrhine facial skulls might be optimized for different functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biometry
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Haplorhini / anatomy & histology*
  • Male
  • Mastication
  • Skull / anatomy & histology*