Non-mammalian vertebrates

The Ross Lab has a long-standing interest in the evolutionary biomechanics of non-mammalian vertebrates, especially crocodylians and lepidosaurs.


Non-primate mammals

The Ross Lab is working closely with the Luo Lab to better understand the evolution of the mammalian mandible. We are using the opossum feeding system as a tool for understanding how best to model transformations of mandible form in early mammals. Kelsey Stilson is studying the role of periodontal afferents in control of 3d jaw movements during chewing in opossums. Alec Wilken is studying loading and strain regimes in the mandibles of opossums and early mammals.


Primate mandibles

We are working with Olga Panagiotopoulou at Monash University on finite element modeling of the mandible of Macaca during feeding and with Felippe Prado’s team at UNICAMP in Brazil of FEM of the mandible of Sapajus.


Primate crania

The Ross Lab has a long standing interest in craniofacial function during feeding in primates. Experimental studies are informing studies of muscle architecture dynamics and sagittal suture function in capuchins.

Project Primate feeding behavior

Primate feeding behavior

Field studies of wild capuchins in Brazil and Suriname (with Barth Wright, Kristin Wright and David Strait) have yielded important data on relationships between feeding behavior, food mechanical properties, and feeding posture. This important work continues with ontogenetic studies of capuchin feeding behavior under Myra Laird, Claire Terhune, Janine Chalk-Wilayto, and Megan Holmes.

Project Human mandible bioengineering

Human bioengineering

Our lab is working with Dr. Russell Reid in the Department of Surgery and with the Panagiotopoulou Lab at Monash University, and Drs. Felippe Prado, Ana Claudia Rossi and Alexandre Freire at UNICAMP in Brazil to improve treatment of disorders affecting human craniofacial skeletons. To improve treatment of mandible fractures, Panagiotopoulou is using validated finite element models to estimate the strain regimes in the fracture zone and around the implants to determine which fracture repair method–Champy or biplanar–is most effective. We are working with Drs. Prado, Rossi and Freire on FEM of distraction osteogenesis in infants with hypoplastic mandibles.  We have also shown how the concept of “facial pillars” in the human clinical literature is not supported by morphological evidence, but does describe skeletal function during chewing.


Fossil hominids

In vivo and finite element modeling studies have long informed our understanding of fossil hominid cranial and mandibular evolution. Collaborations with Dr. David Strait have produced several important papers on fossil hominid cranial mechanics.  We use data on bone material properties collected with Paul Dechow, data on muscle architecture collected by Andrea Taylor, and data on jaw kinematics and muscle activity collected with Jose (Pepe) Iriarte-Diaz and Olga Panagiotopoulou to build our models. In collaboration with Zeray Alemseged, Andrea Taylor, Chris Robinson, Amanda Smith and Carol Ward we are using geometric morphometric and finite element modeling techniques to study mandible design (form-function relationships) in living and fossil hominids (humans and apes). We are interested in what aspects of diet or feeding behavior are reflected in mandible morphology, and hence can be reconstructed in fossil hominids.