The ontogeny of the chin: an analysis of allometric and biomechanical scaling.
The presence of a prominent chin in modern humans has been viewed by some researchers as an architectural adaptation to buttress the anterior corpus from bending stresses during mastication. In contrast, ontogenetic studies of mandibular symphyseal form suggest that a prominent chin results from the complex spatial interaction between the symphysis and surrounding soft tissue and skeletal anatomy during development. While variation in chin prominence is clearly influenced by differential growth and spatial constraints, it is unclear to what degree these developmental dynamics influence the mechanical properties of the symphysis. That is, do ontogenetic changes in symphyseal shape result in increased symphyseal bending resistance? We examined ontogenetic changes in the mechanical properties and shape of the symphysis using subjects from a longitudinal cephalometric growth study with ages ranging from 3 to 20+ years. We first examined whether ontogenetic changes in symphyseal shape were correlated with symphyseal vertical bending and wishboning resistance using multivariate regression. Secondly, we examined ontogenetic scaling of bending resistance relative to bending moment arm lengths. An ontogenetic increase in chin prominence was associated with decreased vertical bending resistance, while wishboning resistance was uncorrelated with ontogenetic development of the chin. Relative to bending moment arm lengths, vertical bending resistance scaled with significant negative allometry whereas wishboning resistance scaled isometrically. These results suggest a complex interaction between symphyseal ontogeny and bending resistance, and indicate that ontogenetic increases in chin projection do not provide greater bending resistance to the mandibular symphysis.