Mice are arguably the dominant model organisms for studies investigating the effect of genetic traits on the pathways to mammalian skull and teeth development, thus being integral in exploring craniofacial and dental evolution. The aim of this study is to analyse the functional significance of masticatory loads on the mouse mandible and identify critical stress accumulations that could trigger phenotypic and/or growth alterations in mandible-related structures. To achieve this, a 3D model of mouse skulls was reconstructed based on Micro Computed Tomography measurements. Upon segmenting the main hard tissue components of the mandible such as incisors, molars and alveolar bone, boundary conditions were assigned on the basis of the masticatory muscle architecture. The model was subjected to four loading scenarios simulating different feeding ecologies according to the hard or soft type of food and chewing or gnawing biting movement. Chewing and gnawing resulted in varying loading patterns, with biting type exerting a dominant effect on the stress variations experienced by the mandible and loading intensity correlating linearly to the stress increase. The simulation provided refined insight on the mechanobiology of the mouse mandible, indicating that food consistency could influence micro evolutionary divergence patterns in mandible shape of rodents.
Keywords: biomechanics; craniofacial evolution; incisor; mandible; modeling; molar; rodents; tooth.