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Assessment of the role of sutures in a lizard skull: a computer modelling study

O'Higgins, P.; Jones, M. E.H; Evans, S. E; Fagan, M. J; Moazen, Mehran; Curtis, Neil; O'Higgins, Paul; Jones, Marc E.H.; Evans, Susan E.; Fagan, Michael J.


P. O'Higgins

M. E.H Jones

S. E Evans

M. J Fagan

Mehran Moazen

Neil Curtis

Paul O'Higgins

Marc E.H. Jones

Susan E. Evans

Michael J. Fagan


Sutures form an integral part of the functioning skull, but their role has long been debated among vertebrate morphologists and palaeontologists. Furthermore, the relationship between typical skull sutures, and those involved in cranial kinesis, is poorly understood. In a series of computational modelling studies, complex loading conditions obtained through multibody dynamics analysis were imposed on a finite element model of the skull of Uromastyx hardwickii, an akinetic herbivorous lizard. A finite element analysis (FEA) of a skull with no sutures revealed higher patterns of strain in regions where cranial sutures are located in the skull. From these findings, FEAs were performed on skulls with sutures (individual and groups of sutures) to investigate their role and function more thoroughly. Our results showed that individual sutures relieved strain locally, but only at the expense of elevated strain in other regions of the skull. These findings provide an insight into the behaviour of sutures and show how they are adapted to work together to distribute strain around the skull. Premature fusion of one suture could therefore lead to increased abnormal loading on other regions of the skull causing irregular bone growth and deformities. This detailed investigation also revealed that the frontal-parietal suture of the Uromastyx skull played a substantial role in relieving strain compared with the other sutures. This raises questions about the original role of mesokinesis in squamate evolution.


Moazen, M., Curtis, N., O'Higgins, P., Jones, M. E., Evans, S. E., & Fagan, M. J. (2009). Assessment of the role of sutures in a lizard skull: a computer modelling study. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1654), 39-46.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 8, 2008
Publication Date Jan 7, 2009
Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biological Sciences
Print ISSN 0962-8452
Electronic ISSN 1471-2954
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 276
Issue 1654
Pages 39-46
Keywords General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; General Immunology and Microbiology; General Agricultural and Biological Sciences; General Environmental Science; General Medicine
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