The effects of gape angle and bite point on bite force in bats


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Publication Date

January 2003


Models of mammalian mastication predict that bite force is affected by both the degree of mouth opening (gape angle) and the point along the tooth row at which force is transferred to a food item (bite point). Despite the widespread use of these models in comparative analyses, experimental data documenting bite force in non-human mammals are extremely limited. The goal of this study is to document variation in non-stimulated bite force associated with change in gape angle and bite point in a broad range of species. We focus on plant-visiting bats because they exhibit a relatively primitive cranial morphology and are good models for generalized mammals. Assessments of the relationship between gape angle and bite force within and among species demonstrate that bite force decreases significantly as gape angle increases. The relationship between bite force and bite point within each of seven species demonstrates that unilateral molar biting universally generates the highest forces while the unilateral canine biting produces the lowest forces. Bilateral canine biting is intermediate. Beyond these general patterns, differences among species suggest that bite force reflects variation in craniofacial architecture. Finally, these data suggest that behavioral variation in gape angle and bite point may be important variables in comparative, functional analyses of feeding.

Document Type



Journal of Evolution Biology, Vol. 206 (2003).