3 years ago

Muscle‐induced loading as an important source of variation in craniofacial skeletal shape

Andrew J. Conith, Daniel T. Lam, R. Craig Albertson


The shape of the craniofacial skeleton is constantly changing through ontogeny, and reflects a balance between developmental patterning and mechanical‐load induced remodeling. Muscles are a major contributor to producing the mechanical environment that is crucial for “normal” skull development. Here we use an F5 hybrid population of Lake Malawi cichlids to characterize the strength and types of associations between craniofacial bones and muscles. We focus on four bones/bone complexes, with different developmental origins, alongside four muscles with distinct functions. We used micro‐computed tomography to extract 3D information on bones and muscles. 3D geometric morphometrics and volumetric measurements were used to characterize bone and muscle shape, respectively. Linear regressions were performed to test for associations between bone shape and muscle volume. We identified three types of associations between muscles and bones: weak, strong direct (i.e., muscles insert directly onto bone), and strong indirect (i.e., bone is influenced by muscles without a direct connection). In addition, we show that whereas the shape of some bones are relatively robust to muscle‐induced mechanical stimulus, others appear to be highly sensitive to muscular input. Our results imply that the roles for muscular input on skeletal shape extend beyond specific points of origin or insertion, and hold significant potential to influence broader patterns of craniofacial geometry. Thus, changes in the loading environment, either as a normal course of ontogeny or if an organism is exposed to a novel environment, may have predicable effects on skeletal shape via near and far‐ranging effects of muscular loading.

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