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Dr Phil Cox

Tel: 01904 321744    |    philip.cox@hyms.ac.uk    |   @drphilcox


Hull York Medical School, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD

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Biomechanics of rodent skulls

Much of my current research seeks to understand the variation in cranial morphology and masticatory musculature seen throughout the rodents. Rodents are the largest order mammals, with well over 2000 living species, but all of them show one of three distinct arrangements of the jaw-closing muscles. By making digital models of the skulls of three rodents (squirrel, guinea pig and rat) and loading them with the appropriate muscle forces (see left) in a technique known as finite element analysis, we were able to predict the stress and strain patterns across the skull during feeding (see figures above). As might be expected from their diets, squirrels have a more efficient bite at the incisors than the guinea pigs, but that guinea pigs have a more efficient molar bite than squirrels. However, more surprisingly, we found that rats are the champion biters with more efficient bites than either squirrels or guinea pigs at all bites. It is this highly developed feeding ability that may have contributed to the amazing success of rats.

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