Patterns of variation across primates in jaw-muscle electromyography during mastication.

Research paper by Christopher J CJ Vinyard, Christine E CE Wall, Susan H SH Williams, William L WL Hylander

Indexed on: 01 Aug '08Published on: 01 Aug '08Published in: Integrative and comparative biology


Biologists that study mammals continue to discuss the evolution of and functional variation in jaw-muscle activity during chewing. A major barrier to addressing these issues is collecting sufficient in vivo data to adequately capture neuromuscular variation in a clade. We combine data on jaw-muscle electromyography (EMG) collected during mastication from 14 species of primates and one of treeshrews to assess patterns of neuromuscular variation in primates. All data were collected and analyzed using the same methods. We examine the variance components for EMG parameters using a nested ANOVA design across successive hierarchical factors from chewing cycle through species for eight locations in the masseter and temporalis muscles. Variation in jaw-muscle EMGs was not distributed equally across hierarchical levels. The timing of peak EMG activity showed the largest variance components among chewing cycles. Relative levels of recruitment of jaw muscles showed the largest variance components among chewing sequences and cycles. We attribute variation among chewing cycles to (1) changes in food properties throughout the chewing sequence, (2) variation in bite location, and (3) the multiple ways jaw muscles can produce submaximal bite forces. We hypothesize that variation among chewing sequences is primarily related to variation in properties of food. The significant proportion of variation in EMGs potentially linked to food properties suggests that experimental biologists must pay close attention to foods given to research subjects in laboratory-based studies of feeding. The jaw muscles exhibit markedly different variance components among species suggesting that primate jaw muscles have evolved as distinct functional units. The balancing-side deep masseter (BDM) exhibits the most variation among species. This observation supports previous hypotheses linking variation in the timing and activation of the BDM to symphyseal fusion in anthropoid primates and in strepsirrhines with robust symphyses. The working-side anterior temporalis shows a contrasting pattern with little variation in timing and relative activation across primates. The consistent recruitment of this muscle suggests that primates have maintained their ability to produce vertical jaw movements and force in contrast to the evolutionary changes in transverse occlusal forces driven by the varying patterns of activation in the BDM.