The temporomandibular joint is the direct interface between the mandible and the cranium and is critical for transmitting joint reaction forces and determining mandibular range of motion. As a consequence, understanding variation in the morphology of this joint and how it relates to other aspects of craniofacial form is important for better understanding masticatory function. Here, we present a detailed three-dimensional (3D) geometric morphometric analysis of the cranial component of this joint, the glenoid fossa, across a sample of 17 anthropoid primates, and we evaluate covariation between the glenoid and the cranium and mandible. We find high levels of intraspecific variation in glenoid shape that is likely linked to sexual dimorphism and joint remodeling, and we identify differences in mean glenoid shape across taxonomic groups and in relation to size. Analyses of covariation reveal strong relationships between glenoid shape and a variety of aspects of cranial and mandibular form. Our findings suggest that intraspecific variation in glenoid shape in primates could further be reflective of high levels of functional flexibility in the masticatory apparatus, as has also been suggested for primate jaw kinematics and muscle activation patterns. Conversely, interspecific differences likely reflect larger scale differences between species in body size and/or masticatory function. Results of the covariation analyses dovetail with those examining covariation in the cranium of canids and may be indicative of larger patterns across mammals.
- geometric morphometrics
- masticatory apparatus