Masticatory muscle architecture in the Laotian rock rat Laonastes aenigmamus (Mammalia, Rodentia): new insights into the evolution of hystricognathy

J Anat. 2009 Oct;215(4):401-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2009.01130.x. Epub 2009 Aug 20.


We present the first descriptive comparison of the skull, mandible and jaw muscles of the recently recovered Laotian rock rat Laonastes aenigmamus. The gross anatomy of five specimens captured in Laos and internal architecture of the jaw musculature were studied using dissections. The following muscles are described: temporal, masseter, pterygoids, digastric, mylohyoid, geniohyoid and transverse mandibular. The description of the masticatory apparatus of L. aenigmamus offers a rare opportunity to assess the order of establishment of the morphological characters during the evolution of Ctenohystrica. Striking convergences have occurred during the evolution of Diatomyidae and L. aenigmamus presents a unique combination of myological features that corresponds to a mixture of sciurognathous and hystricognathous characters. If L. aenigmamus is a sciurognathous rodent, we have to assume that it independently acquired a pars reflexa of the superficial masseter. We show for the first time that the development of this pars reflexa has occurred several times during the evolution of Ctenohystrica and can no longer be considered a synapomorphic feature of 'Hystricognathi'. These results bring new insights into the evolution of hystricognathy and have profound implications for the interpretation of the fossil record of early hystricognath rodents.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Mastication / physiology*
  • Masticatory Muscles / anatomy & histology*
  • Masticatory Muscles / physiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Rodentia / anatomy & histology*
  • Rodentia / physiology
  • Species Specificity