Spatial Variation in Mandibular Bone Elastic Modulus and Its Effect on Structural Bending Stiffness: A Test Case Using the Taï Forest Monkeys

Am J Phys Anthropol. 2017 Mar;162(3):516-532. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23134. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


Objectives: We investigated how heterogeneity in material stiffness affects structural stiffness in the cercopithecid mandibular cortical bone. We assessed (1) whether this effect changes the interpretation of interspecific structural stiffness variation across four primate species, (2) whether the heterogeneity is random, and (3) whether heterogeneity mitigates bending stress in the jaw associated with food processing.

Materials and methods: The sample consisted of Taï Forest, Cote d'Ivoire, monkeys: Cercocebus atys, Piliocolobus badius, Colobus polykomos, and Cercopithecus diana. Vickers indentation hardness samples estimated elastic moduli throughout the cortical bone area of each coronal section of postcanine corpus. For each section, we calculated maximum area moment of inertia, Imax (structural mechanical property), under three models of material heterogeneity, as well as spatial autocorrelation statistics (Moran's I, IMORAN ).

Results: When the model considered material stiffness variation and spatial patterning, Imax decreased and individual ranks based on structural stiffness changed. Rank changes were not significant across models. All specimens showed positive (nonrandom) spatial autocorrelation. Differences in IMORAN were not significant among species, and there were no discernable patterns of autocorrelation within species. Across species, significant local IMORAN was often attributed to proximity of low moduli in the alveolar process and high moduli in the basal process.

Discussion: While our sample did not demonstrate species differences in the degree of spatial autocorrelation of elastic moduli, there may be mechanical effects of heterogeneity (relative strength and rigidity) that do distinguish at the species or subfamilial level (i.e., colobines vs. cercopithecines). The potential connections of heterogeneity to diet and/or taxonomy remain to be discovered.

Keywords: autocorrelation; biomechanics; material properties.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Cercocebus atys / physiology*
  • Colobus / physiology*
  • Cote d'Ivoire
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mandible / physiology*