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Notre Dame researcher is shedding light on how jaws evolve
Date:8/7/2012

If you're looking for information on the evolution and function of jaws, University of Notre Dame researcher Matt Ravosa is your man.

His integrative research program investigates major adaptive and morphological transformations in the mammalian musculoskeletal system during development and across higher-level groups. In mammals, the greater diversification and increasingly central role of the chewing complex in food procurement and processing has drawn considerable attention to the biomechanics and evolution of this system. Being among the most highly mineralized, and thus well preserved, tissues in the body, craniodental remains have long been used to offer novel insights into the behavior and affinities of extinct organisms.

Ravosa feels that the study of mandibular symphysis, which is the midline joint between the left and right lower jaws, is one of the most interesting and complex articulations in the bodies of mammals. This is due to the remarkable evolutionary and postnatal variation in the degree of fusion, or the amount of hard versus soft tissue, in this joint. For instance, humans, apes and monkeys all have a bony symphysis, which differs from the condition observed in most other living and fossil primates.

In two papers about adaptive and non-adaptive influences on mandibular evolution with his postdoctoral fellow Jeremiah Scott, Rovosa and his colleagues present analyses based on more than 300 species and 2,900 individual mandibles from highly diverse mammal groups where the feeding behavior of living species is well documented.

Ravosa is particularly interested in determining if there is a relationship between the properties of food being consumed and the degree of fusion of the jaw. His recent paper in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology is most broad-based examination to date relating dietary properties of mammals to the degree of fusion. His research reveals that in the case of marsupials, carnivorans
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Contact: Matthew Ravosa
Matthew.J.Ravosa.1@nd.edu
574-631-2556
University of Notre Dame
Source:Eurekalert

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