Morphology of the Jaw-Closing Musculature in the Common Wombat ( Vombatus ursinus ) Using Digital Dissection and Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Wombats are unique among marsupials in having one pair of upper incisors, and hypsodont molars for processing tough, abrasive vegetation. Of the three extant species, the most abundant, the common wombat (Vombatus ursinus), has had the least attention in terms of masticatory muscle morphology, and has never been thoroughly described. Using MRI and digital dissection to compliment traditional gross dissections, the major jaw adductor muscles, the masseter, temporalis and pterygoids, were described. The masseter and medial pterygoid muscles are greatly enlarged compared to other marsupials. This, in combination with the distinctive form and function of the dentition, most likely facilitates processing a tough, abrasive diet. The broad, flat skull and large masticatory muscles are well suited to generate a very high bite force. MRI scans allow more detail of the muscle morphology to be observed and the technique of digital dissections greatly enhances the knowledge obtained from gross dissections.