The Predentary Bone and Its Significance in the Evolution of Feeding Mechanisms in Ornithischian Dinosaurs

Ali Nabavizadeh, David B. Weishampel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The characteristic predentary bone in ornithischian dinosaurs is a unique, unpaired element located at the midline of the mandibular symphysis. Although traditionally thought to only be a plant “nipping” bone, the true functional significance of this bone among feeding mechanisms of ornithischian dinosaurs is poorly known. Recent studies of a select few ornithischian genera have suggested rotation of the mandibular corpora around their long axes relative to their midline joint articulation with the predentary bone. This study aims to re-evaluate these hypotheses as well as provide in-depth qualitative comparative descriptions of predentary bone morphology in ornithischian genera throughout all subclades, including heterodontosaurids, thyreophorans, ornithopods, and marginocephalians. Descriptions evaluate overall shape of the predentary, its articular surfaces contacting the rostral ends of the dentaries, and the morphology of the rostral extent of the dentaries and their midline symphysis. Functionally relevant morphologies in each predentary morphotype are accentuated for further speculation of feeding mechanisms. Three predentary morphotypes are described throughout ornithischian subclades and each plays a unique role in feeding adaptations. Most notably, the predentary likely evolved as a midline axial point of the mandibular symphysis for simultaneous variable movement or rotation of the mandibular corpora in many, but not all, taxa. This simultaneous movement of the hemimandibles would have aided in feeding on both sides of the jaw at once. The function of the predentary as well as other jaw adaptations is discussed for genera throughout all subclades, focusing on both general shape and joint morphology. Anat Rec, 299:1358–1388, 2016.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1358-1388
Number of pages31
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Ornithischia
  • dinosaurs
  • functional morphology
  • jaw mechanics
  • predentary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Histology


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