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Assessment of the mechanical role of cranial sutures in the mammalian skull: Computational biomechanical modelling of the rat skull

Sharp, Alana C.; Dutel, Hugo; Watson, Peter J.; Gröning, Flora; Crumpton, Nick; Fagan, Michael J.; Evans, Susan E.


Alana C. Sharp

Hugo Dutel

Peter J. Watson

Flora Gröning

Nick Crumpton

Michael J. Fagan

Susan E. Evans


Cranial sutures are fibrocellular joints between the skull bones that are progressively replaced with bone throughout ontogeny, facilitating growth and cranial shape change. This transition from soft tissue to bone is reflected in the biomechanical properties of the craniofacial complex. However, the mechanical significance of cranial sutures has only been explored at a few localised areas within the mammalian skull, and as such our understanding of suture function in overall skull biomechanics is still limited. Here, we sought to determine how the overall strain environment is affected by the complex network of cranial sutures in the mammal skull. We combined two computational biomechanical methods, multibody dynamics analysis and finite element analysis, to simulate biting in a rat skull and compared models with and without cranial sutures. Our results show that including complex sutures in the rat model does not substantially change overall strain gradients across the cranium, particularly strain magnitudes in the bones overlying the brain. However, local variations in strain magnitudes and patterns can be observed in areas close to the sutures. These results show that, during feeding, sutures may be more important in some regions than others. Sutures should therefore be included in models that require accurate local strain magnitudes and patterns of cranial strain, particularly if models are developed for analysis of specific regions, such as the temporomandibular joint or zygomatic arch. Our results suggest that, for mammalian skulls, cranial sutures might be more important for allowing brain expansion during growth than redistributing biting loads across the cranium in adults.


Sharp, A. C., Dutel, H., Watson, P. J., Gröning, F., Crumpton, N., Fagan, M. J., & Evans, S. E. (2023). Assessment of the mechanical role of cranial sutures in the mammalian skull: Computational biomechanical modelling of the rat skull. Journal of morphology, 284(3), Article e21555.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 5, 2023
Online Publication Date Jan 11, 2023
Publication Date 2023-03
Deposit Date Jan 23, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 30, 2023
Journal Journal of Morphology
Print ISSN 0362-2525
Electronic ISSN 1097-4687
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 284
Issue 3
Article Number e21555
Keywords Cranial sutures; Craniofacial; Feeding; Finite element analysis; Multibody dynamic analysis; Rodent
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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Morphology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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