Chewing variation in lepidosaurs and primates

J Exp Biol. 2010 Feb 15;213(4):572-84. doi: 10.1242/jeb.036822.


Mammals chew more rhythmically than lepidosaurs. The research presented here evaluated possible reasons for this difference in relation to differences between lepidosaurs and mammals in sensorimotor systems. Variance in the absolute and relative durations of the phases of the gape cycle was calculated from kinematic data from four species of primates and eight species of lepidosaurs. The primates exhibit less variance in the duration of the gape cycle than in the durations of the four phases making up the gape cycle. This suggests that increases in the durations of some gape cycle phases are accompanied by decreases in others. Similar effects are much less pronounced in the lepidosaurs. In addition, the primates show isometric changes in gape cycle phase durations, i.e. the relative durations of the phases of the gape cycle change little with increasing cycle time. In contrast, in the lepidosaurs variance in total gape cycle duration is associated with increases in the proportion of the cycle made up by the slow open phase. We hypothesize that in mammals the central nervous system includes a representation of the optimal chew cycle duration maintained using afferent feedback about the ongoing state of the chew cycle. The differences between lepidosaurs and primates do not lie in the nature of the sensory information collected and its feedback to the feeding system, but rather the processing of that information by the CNS and its use feed-forward for modulating jaw movements and gape cycle phase durations during chewing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Lizards / physiology
  • Mastication
  • Primates / physiology*
  • Reptiles / physiology*