Linkage mechanisms in the vertebrate skull: Structure and function of three-dimensional, parallel transmission systems

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Authors Aaron M Olsen, Mark W Westneat
Journal/Conference Name Journal of morphology
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Many musculoskeletal systems, including the skulls of birds, fishes, and some lizards consist of interconnected chains of mobile skeletal elements, analogous to linkage mechanisms used in engineering. Biomechanical studies have applied linkage models to a diversity of musculoskeletal systems, with previous applications primarily focusing on two-dimensional linkage geometries, bilaterally symmetrical pairs of planar linkages, or single four-bar linkages. Here, we present new, three-dimensional (3D), parallel linkage models of the skulls of birds and fishes and use these models (available as free kinematic simulation software), to investigate structure-function relationships in these systems. This new computational framework provides an accessible and integrated workflow for exploring the evolution of structure and function in complex musculoskeletal systems. Linkage simulations show that kinematic transmission, although a suitable functional metric for linkages with single rotating input and output links, can give misleading results when applied to linkages with substantial translational components or multiple output links. To take into account both linear and rotational displacement we define force mechanical advantage for a linkage (analogous to lever mechanical advantage) and apply this metric to measure transmission efficiency in the bird cranial mechanism. For linkages with multiple, expanding output points we propose a new functional metric, expansion advantage, to measure expansion amplification and apply this metric to the buccal expansion mechanism in fishes. Using the bird cranial linkage model, we quantify the inaccuracies that result from simplifying a 3D geometry into two dimensions. We also show that by combining single-chain linkages into parallel linkages, more links can be simulated while decreasing or maintaining the same number of input parameters. This generalized framework for linkage simulation and analysis can accommodate linkages of differing geometries and configurations, enabling novel interpretations of the mechanics of force transmission across a diversity of vertebrate feeding mechanisms and enhancing our understanding of musculoskeletal function and evolution. J. Morphol. 277:1570-1583, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Date of publication 2016
Code Programming Language R
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