A biomechanical model for analysis of muscle force, power output and lower jaw motion in fishes

J Theor Biol. 2003 Aug 7;223(3):269-81. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5193(03)00058-4.


Fish skulls are complex kinetic systems with movable components that are powered by muscles. Cranial muscles for jaw closing pull the mandible around a point of rotation at the jaw joint using a third-order lever mechanism. The present study develops a lever model for the jaw of fishes that uses muscle design and the Hill equation for nonlinear length-tension properties of muscle to calculate dynamic power output. The model uses morphometric data on skeletal dimensions and muscle proportions in order to predict behavior and force transmission mediated by lever action. The computer model calculates a range of dynamic parameters of jaw function including muscle force, torque, effective mechanical advantage, jaw velocity, bite duration, bite force, work and power. A complete list of required morphometrics is presented and a software program (MandibLever 2.0) is available for implementing lever analysis. Results show that simulations yield kinematics and timing profiles similar to actual fish feeding events. Simulation of muscle properties shows that mandibles reach their peak velocity near the start of jaw closing, peak force at the end of jaw closing, and peak power output at about 25% of the closing cycle time. Adductor jaw muscles with different mechanical designs must have different contractile properties and/or different muscle activity patterns to coordinate jaw closing. The effective mechanical advantage calculated by the model is considerably lower than the mechanical advantage estimated from morphological lever ratios, suggesting that previous studies of morphological lever ratios have overestimated force and underestimated velocity transmission to the mandible. A biomechanical model of jaw closing can be used to interpret the mechanics of a wide range of jaw mechanisms and will enable studies of the functional results of developmental and evolutionary changes in skull morphology and physiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Bite Force
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Jaw / physiology*
  • Masticatory Muscles / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement / physiology
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*