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Type: Journal article
Title: Comparative cranial biomechanics in two lizard species: impact of variation in cranial design
Author: Dutel, H.
Gröning, F.
Sharp, A.C.
Watson, P.J.
Herrel, A.
Ross, C.F.
Jones, M.E.H.
Evans, S.E.
Fagan, M.J.
Citation: The Journal of Experimental Biology, 2021; 224(5):jeb234831-1-jeb234831-16
Publisher: Company of Biologists
Issue Date: 2021
ISSN: 0022-0949
Statement of
Tao Han, Shuailong Li, Shufang Su, Wei Su and Yongcheng Wu
Abstract: Cranial morphology in lepidosaurs is highly disparate and characterized by the frequent loss or reduction of bony elements. In varanids and geckos, the loss of the postorbital bar is associated with changes in skull shape, but the mechanical principles underlying this variation remain poorly understood. Here, we seek to determine how the overall cranial architecture and the presence of the postorbital bar relate to the loading and deformation of the cranial bones during biting in lepidosaurs. Using computer-based simulation techniques, we compare cranial biomechanics in the varanid Varanus niloticus and the teiid Salvator merianae, two large, active foragers. The overall strain magnitudes and distribution across the cranium is similar in both species, despite lower strain gradients in Varanus niloticus In Salvator merianae, the postorbital bar is important for the resistance of the cranium to feeding loads. The postorbital ligament, which partially replaces the postorbital bar in varanids, does not affect bone strain. Our results suggest that the reduction of the postorbital bar impaired neither biting performance nor the structural resistance of the cranium to feeding loads in Varanus niloticus Differences in bone strain between the two species might reflect demands imposed by feeding and non-feeding functions on cranial shape. Beyond variation in cranial bone strain related to species-specific morphological differences, our results reveal that similar mechanical behaviour is shared by lizards with distinct cranial shapes. Contrary to mammals, the morphology of the circumorbital region, calvaria and palate appears to be important for withstanding high feeding loads in these lizards.
Keywords: Lepidosauria
Finite element analysis
Multibody dynamic analysis
Description: Published: 11 January 2021
Rights: © 2021. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.234831
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