Proximate determinants of bite force in Anolis lizards

Antoine Wittorski, Jonathan B. Losos, Anthony Herrel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Performance measures associated with the vertebrate jaw system may provide important insights into vertebrate ecology and evolution because of their importance in many ecologically relevant tasks. Previous studies have shown that in many taxa, evolution toward higher bite force has gone hand in hand with the evolution of larger body size. However, independent of differences in overall body size, bite force may vary depending on head size and shape as well. Moreover, the underlying musculature may also drive variation in bite force. Here, we investigate the proximate determinants of bite force in lizards of the genus Anolis. We dissected the jaw muscles and quantified muscle mass, fibre length, and cross-sectional area. Data were analysed for both sexes independently given the sexual dimorphism detected in the dataset. Our results show that the traits that explain bite force are similar in both males and females with overall body size and muscle mass being the principal determinants. Among the different muscles examined, the adductor externus and the pseudotemporalis groups were the best determinants of bite force. However, models run for males predicted the variation in bite force better than models for females, suggesting that selection on morphology improving bite force may be stronger in males.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-95
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Biting
  • Head shape
  • Muscle
  • Sexual dimorphism


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