Digital dissection of the masticatory muscles of the naked mole-rat, Heterocephalus glaber (Mammalia, Rodentia).
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The naked mole-rat, Heterocephalus glaber, of the family Bathyergidae is a subterranean rodent that feeds on underground roots and tubers and digs extensive tunnel systems with its incisors. It is a highly unusual mammal with regard to its social structure, longevity, pain insensitivity and cancer resistance, all of which have made it the subject of a great deal of research in recent years. Yet, much of the basic anatomy of this species remains undocumented. In this paper, we describe the morphology of the jaw-closing musculature of the naked mole-rat, as revealed by contrast-enhanced micro-computed tomography. This technique uses an iodine stain to enable the imaging of soft tissues with microCT. The iodine-enhanced scans were used to create 3D reconstructions of the naked mole-rat masticatory muscles from which muscle masses were calculated. The jaw-closing musculature of Heterocephalus glaber is relatively very large compared to other rodents and is dominated by the superficial masseter, the deep masseter and the temporalis. The temporalis in particular is large for a rodent, covering the entirety of the braincase and much of the rear part of the orbit. The morphology of the masseter complex described here differs from two other published descriptions of bathyergid masticatory muscles, but is more similar to the arrangement seen in other rodent families. The zygomaticomandibularis (ZM) muscle does not protrude through the infraorbital foramen on to the rostrum and thus the naked mole-rat should be considered protrogomorphous rather than hystricomorphous, and the morphology is consistent with secondarily lost hystricomorphy as has been previously suggested for Bathyergidae. Overall, the morphology of the masticatory musculature indicates a species with a high bite force and a wide gape-both important adaptations for a life dominated by digging with the incisors.
AuthorsCox, PG; Faulkes, CG
- Organismal Biology