The biomechanical role of the chondrocranium and sutures in a lizard cranium

Marc E H Jones, Flora Gröning, Hugo Dutel, Alana Sharp, Michael J Fagan, Susan E. Evans

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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The role of soft tissues in skull biomechanics remains poorly understood. Not least, the chondrocranium, the portion of the braincase which persists as cartilage with varying degrees of mineralization. It also remains commonplace to overlook the biomechanical role of sutures despite evidence that they alter strain distribution. Here, we examine the role of both the sutures and the chondrocranium in the South American tegu lizard Salvator merianae. We use multi-body dynamics analysis (MDA) to provide realistic loading conditions for anterior and posterior unilateral biting and a detailed finite element model to examine strain magnitude and distribution. We find that strains within the chondrocranium are greatest during anterior biting and are primarily tensile; also that strain within the cranium is not greatly reduced by the presence of the chondrocranium unless it is given the same material properties as bone. This result contradicts previous suggestions that the anterior portion (the nasal septum) acts as a supporting structure. Inclusion of sutures to the cranium model not only increases overall strain magnitudes but also leads to a more complex distribution of tension and compression rather than that of a beam under sagittal bending
Original languageEnglish
Article number20170637
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number137
Early online date20 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

We thank the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) who
provided funding for this research (BB/H011854/1; BB/H011668/1; BB/H011390/1; BB/M010287/1; BB/M008525/1; BB/M008061/1) and
a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award DE130101567 (Australian Research Council) which has supported MEHJ.


  • chondrocranium
  • FEA
  • skull structure
  • septum
  • cartilage


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