Dietary correlates associated with the mental foramen in primates: implications for interpreting the fossil record

Magdalena N. Muchlinski, Andrew S. Deane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The mandibular nerve is a sensory and motor nerve that innervates the muscles of mastication, the lower dentition, and the lower lip and surrounding structures. Although this nerve contains both efferent and afferent fibers, the mental nerve, a terminal branch of the mandibular nerve, is a strictly sensory nerve that exits the mental foramen and innervates the lower lip, the skin overlaying the mandible, and the oral mucosa around the mandible. Osteological foramina are often used as proxies for nerve cross section area and they often correlate well with some aspect of a primate's ecology (e.g., optic foramen and visual acuity). The primary objective of this study is to explore the correlation between the mental foramen and dietary preference among primates. The mental foramen of 40 primate species (n = 180) was measured from 3-D surface models of the mandible. Both conventional and phylogenetic tests indicate that although frugivores have larger mental foramina than folivores, the differences were not significant. These results show that while structures like the infraorbital foramen correlate well with diet and touch sensitivity, the mental foramen does not. Based on these findings, the mental foramen is not a suggested morphological character for interpreting of the fossil record. J. Morphol. 277:978-985, 2016.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-985
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of morphology
Volume277
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016

Keywords

  • diet
  • fossil record
  • frugivory
  • mandibular nerve
  • sensory ecology
  • touch
  • trigeminal nerve

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