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Skull mechanics and fenestration patterns in extinct carnivorous reptiles


The key aim of this project is to advance understanding of the biomechanics of feeding in a diversity of ancient reptiles. Accordingly, a complete functional analysis of reptile cranial and mandibular mechanics as it is reflected in an array of extinct carnivorous taxa will be developed for the first time. Comparison of bone structures related to jaw-adductor musculature and function would shed light on similarities and differences in their feeding behaviours. These different shapes will be permitted to pro be how the interaction of head skeleton geometry and feeding loads acting on it are manifested as stresses anywhere within its bones. A detailed, comparative consideration of skull morphology and associated muscle attachments and function, should test hypotheses regarding the role of fenestration patterns.

An integrative approach of CT-scan plus kinetic and finite-element modelling methods will be applied to analyse those topics. Computerised tomography will allow construction of three-dimensional profiles of crania and mandibles without destructive analysis. This technique will be used as a foundation to model them with innovative computational mechanical methods. CT data will be converted into a finite-element mesh, which amounts to a mathematical description of the skeletal geometry and provides a basis for a stress analysis. The finite-element models will be loaded in order to simulate different modes of biting, taking into account not only alternative feeding strategies but also size and behaviour in potential prey.

Differences in magnitude between biting forces and maximum loads the skull can withstand will lead to conclusions about how extinct carnivore reptiles may have captured and fed upon their prey. Craniomandibular systems in extinct reptiles can be treated as biting machines operating in three dimensions. As such, different possibilities of craniomandibular mechanisms will be tested by using computerised kinematic analyses.

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