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What shapes a bone?
Date:8/5/2011

sely measured jaw bones from 63 members of the Point Hope population and 42 individuals from the Arikara population using an X-ray gun as well as calipers, and they used those measurements to extrapolate the proportions of the entire jaw. "The jaw bones were similar in children before they were old enough to start chewing, but different in adulthood, which implies that this divergence is likely a functional result of their diet and the use of their jaw, rather than genetics," says Holmes.

The changes to the jaw bones were explained using a theory drawn from engineering, which directly relates the geometry of a bone to the stresses put on it during use. The team was able to investigate very specific parts of the jaw bones and relate them to specific dietary habits. In the Point Hope population, for example, they found round, wide jaw bonesa result of having to exert more force to chew a harder diet. The Arikara, on the other hand, did not show this expansion, which they attributed to the lighter chewing requirement of a softer diet.

"Genetics creates a blueprint of the bone, but a lot of things influence the bone's construction," says Holmes. "Mechanical pressure from muscle stress and strain from day-to-day activities can remodel the bone's surface and internal structure. Knowing how much the shape of a mandible we find is related to diet and how much genetically connects it to fossils found elsewhere can really help us parse out the family tree."


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Contact: Vanessa McMains
vmcmain1@jhmi.edu
410-502-9410
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert  

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