Mechanical compensation in the evolution of the early hominin feeding apparatus

Justin A. Ledogar, Sascha Senck, Brian A. Villmoare, Amanda L. Smith, Gerhard W. Weber, Brian G. Richmond, Paul C. Dechow, Callum F. Ross, Ian R. Grosse, Barth W. Wright, Qian Wang, Craig Byron, Stefano Benazzi, Kristian J. Carlson, Keely B. Carlson, Leslie C.Pryor McIntosh, Adam Van Casteren, David S. Strait

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Australopiths, a group of hominins from the Plio-Pleistocene of Africa, are characterized by derived traits in their crania hypothesized to strengthen the facial skeleton against feeding loads and increase the efficiency of bite force production. The crania of robust australopiths are further thought to be stronger and more efficient than those of gracile australopiths. Results of prior mechanical analyses have been broadly consistent with this hypothesis, but here we showthat the predictions of the hypothesiswith respect to mechanical strength are not met: some gracile australopith crania are as strong as that of a robust australopith, and the strength of gracile australopith crania overlaps substantially with that of chimpanzee crania. We hypothesize that the evolution of cranial traits that increased the efficiency of bite force production in australopithsmay have simultaneouslyweakened the face, leading to the compensatory evolution of additional traits that reinforced the facial skeleton. The evolution of facial form in early hominins can therefore be thought of as an interplay between the need to increase the efficiency of bite force production and the need to maintain the structural integrity of the face.

Translated title of the contributionMechanische Kompensation in der Evolution des mastikatorischen Apparats der frühen Homininen
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220711
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1977
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2022


  • Australopith
  • Diet
  • Finite element analysis
  • Biomechanics
  • Mastication
  • Finiteelement analysis
  • Ingestion
  • Bite Force
  • Fossils
  • Biological Evolution
  • Animals
  • Skull/anatomy & histology
  • Face
  • Hominidae


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