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Callum Ross

by Callum Ross last modified Oct 29, 2012 11:38 AM

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Ross 2012

Callum F. Ross (

Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy
Committee on Evolutionary Biology

Research Associate, Field Museum of Natural History

President, Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois

I am interested in the function and evolution of neuromusculoskeletal systems. I work on the biomechanics and evolution of vertebrate feeding systems because they are functionally and structurally diverse, their performance is important for animal survival, and natural feeding behavior can be studied under laboratory conditions.

My current research foci are as follows:

  • The strain environment of the primate mandible and its relationship to variance in feeding behavior and food material properties. Bill Hylander's seminal work on the biomechanics of primate mandibles used free-body analysis and in vivo bone strain recordings to hypothesize the patterns of stress and strain in the primate mandible during feeding. My work builds on Bill's by extending the strain measurements to the use of three rosette strain gages around the mandibular corpus, recording of strain from previously unsampled species, and combined recording of strain, EMG and high resolution 3-d jaw kinematics. I am currently evaluating the relative importance of food material properties and feeding behavior (e.g., premolar biting vs. chewing) for variation in mandibular strain regimes. This work is funded by the National Science Foundation's HOMINID Program and is a collaborative project with several other investigators, discussed next.
  • Finite element analysis of hominid crania. Our lab is participating in a collaborative research project led by David Strait, and including Brian Richmond, Paul Dechow, Mark Spencer, Qian Wang, Craig Byron, and Gerhard Weber, that is using finite-element analysis to model the patterns of stress and strain in primate skulls during feeding. The long term goal of this research is to test hypotheses regarding the functional significance of variation in skull form in fossil hominids.
  • The effect of strain enviroment on mandibular growth in Alligator. This is David Reed's dissertation research. See his page for details.
  • Strain and stress in the Alligator mandible during feeding. This research is a collaborative effort involving Keith Metzger (Hofstra University School of Medicine), Laura Porro, David Reed and Justin Lemberg (University of Chicago). This project characterizes patterns of strain and stress in the Alligator mandible during feeding using in vivo data and finite-element modeling in order to provide a reference point from which mandibular structure-function relationships can be studied in nonmammalian vertebrates.
  • Scaling of primate feeding systems. In 2010, Andrea Taylor at Duke University, Jonathan Perry at Johns Hopkins University and I are beginning a research project into the causes and consequences of the scaling of primate chewing frequencies and food intake rates. This research, funded by the National Science Foundation (Physical Anthropology), involves muscle architecture analyses, CT scanning of primate mandibles to estimate center of mass, in vivo studies of jaw kinematics in a range of primates, and studies of food intake rate in anthropoid primates.
  • Modulation of jaw kinematics in primates. We use a 10-camera Vicon system to record high resolution 3-d jaw kinematics. This technique is being used to study variation in jaw kinematics in primates and lizards.  These jaw kinematic data are being combined with bone strain and EMG recordings to study the impact of food material properties on chewing behavior, and the nature of variance in chewing kinematic within and between individuals and species. Dr. Jose-Iriarte Diaz (Pepe), a postdoc in the lab, is developing a data structure in Matlab through which these data can be easily accessed.
  • Cortical encoding of chewing and swallowing. In collaboration with Nicho HatsopoulosKazutaka Takahashi and Fritzie Arce at University of Chicago and Barry Sessle at University of Toronto we are studying the role of sensorimotor cortex in the control of chewing. This research is funded by the Brain Research Foundation at University of Chicago and the CIHR. An undergraduate at University of Chicago, Kevin Brown is analyzing the cortical data for this project.



In addition to my research interests, I am Course Director for The Human Body, the human gross anatomy course at Pritzker School of Medicine. The course runs from mid-August to mid-October, during which time the lab focuses its efforts on teaching. In collaboration with Melina Hale, I teach a graduate course on Development and Evolution of Neuromechanical Systems to students in our IGERT program. I also teach a graduate course on the Biomechanics of Vertebrate Feeding Systems.



A list of all my publications is here.


Recent and pending publications

Two selected from 2009

Ross, C. F., Reed, D. A., Washington, R. L., Eckhardt, A., Anapol, F., Shahnoor, N. (2009) Scaling of chew cycle duration in Primates. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 138: 30-44. (pdf)

Ross, C. F., Washington, R. L., Eckhardt, A., Reed, D. A., Vogel, E., Dominy, N., Machanda, Z. (2009) Ecological consequences of scaling of chew cycle duration and daily feeding time in Primates. Journal of Human Evolution 56: 570-585. (pdf)


Gintof, C., Konow, N., Ross, C.F., Sanford, C.P.J. (2010). Rhythmicity in teleost chewing: A comparison with amniotes. Journal of Experimental Biology 213:1868-1875. (pdf)

Bastir, M., Rosas, A., Stringer, C. B., Cuétara, J. M., Kruszynski, R., Weber, G. W., Ross, C. F. and Ravosa, M. J. (2010) Effects of brain size and facial size on the evolution of the basicranium in Homo. Journal of Human Evolution 58: 424-431. (pdf)

Zapata, U., Metzger, K.A., Wang, Q., Elsey, R.M., Ross, C.F., Dechow, P.C. (2010) Material properties of mandibular cortical bone in the American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis. Bone 46: 860-867. (pdf)

Ross, C.F., Baden, A.L., Georgi, J.A., Herrel, A., Metzger, K.A., Reed, D.A., Schaerlaeken, V., Wolff, M.S. (2010). Chewing variation in lepidosaurs and primates. Journal of Experimental Biology 213: 572-584. (pdf)

Strait, D.S., Grosse, I., Dechow, P.C., Smith, A.L., Wang, Q., Weber, G.W., Neubauer, S., Slice, D.E., Chalk, J., Richmond, B.G., Lucas, P.W., Spencer, M.A., Schrein, C., Wright, B.W., Byron, C., Ross, C.F. (2010). The structural rigidity of the cranium of Australopithecus africanus: implications for diet, dietary adaptations and the allometry of feeding biomechanics. Anatomical Record 293: 582-593. (pdf)

Ravosa, M.J., Ross, C.F., Williams, S.H., Costley, D.B (2010) Allometry of masticatory loading patterns in mammals. Anatomical Record 293: 557-571. (pdf)

Williams, B.A., Kay, R.F., Kirk, E.C., Ross, C.F. (2010) Darwinius masillae – A reply to Franzen et al (2009). Journal of Human Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.01.003 (pdf)

Reed, D. A. and Ross, C. F. (2010). The influence of food material properties on jaw kinematics in the primate, Cebus. Archives of Oral Biology 55: 946-962. (pdf)


  • Chalk, J., Richmond, B.G., Ross, C.F. Strait, D.S., Wright, B., Spencer, M.A., Wang, Q., Dechow, P.C. (2011) A finite element analysis of masticatory stress hypotheses. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 145:1-10. (pdf)
  • Ross, C. F., Berthaume, M., Iriarte-Diaz, J., Dechow, P. C., Porro, L.B., Richmond, B. G., Spencer, M., Strait, D., (2011). In vivo bone strain and finite-element modeling of the craniofacial haft in catarrhine primates. Journal of Anatomy 218: 112-141. (pdf)
  • Reed, D. A., Porro, L., Iriarte-Diaz, J., Lemberg, J., Holliday, C. M., Anapol, F. and Ross, C. F. (2011). The impact of bone and suture material properties on mandibular function in Alligator mississippiensis: testing theoretical phenotypes with finite element analysis. Journal of Anatomy 218: 59-74. (pdf)
  • Iriarte, Diaz, J., Reed, D.A., Ross, C.F. (2011) Sources of variance in temporal and spatial aspects of jaw kinematics in two species of primates feeding on foods of different properties. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51(2): 307-319. (pdf)
  • Konow, N., Herrel, A., Ross, C.F., Williams, S.H., German, R.Z., Sanford, C.P.J., Gintof, C. (2011) Evolution of chewing jaw and hyoid muscle activity patterns in gnathostomes. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51(2) 235-246. (pdf)
  • Porro, L.B., Holliday, C. M., Anapol, F., Ontiveros, L.C., Ontiveros, L.P., Ross, C. F. (2011). Free body analysis, beam mechanics, and finite element modeling of the mandible of Alligator mississippiensisJournal of Morphology (doi: 10.1002/jmor.10957) (pdf).
  • Terhune, C., Iriarte-Diaz, J. Taylor, A., Ross, C. F. (2011) The instantaneous center of rotation of the mandible in non-human primates.Integrative and Comparative Biology  51(2): 320-332. (doi:10.1093/icb/icr031) (pdf)
  • Wood, S.A., Strait, D.S., Dumont, E.R., Ross, C.F., Grosse, I. R. (2011) Assessing the effect of alveoli (tooth sockets) and periodontal ligaments in finite element analyses of crania. Journal of Biomechanics44: 1831-1838. (pdf
  • Berthaume, M., Dechow, P.C., Iriarte-Diaz, J., Ross, C.F., Strait, D., Wang, Q., Grosse, I. (2012). Probabilistic finite element analysis of a craniofacial finite element model. Journal of Theoretical Biology 300:242-253.
  • Ross, C. F., J. Iriarte-Diaz, C. L. Nunn (2012). Innovative approaches to the relationship between diet and mandibular morphology in primates.International Journal of Primatology 33: 632-660.
  • Phillips, A.W., Smith, S.G., Ross, C.F., Straus, C.M. (2012) Improved understanding of human anatomy through self-guided radiological anatomy modules. Academic Radiology 19(7):902-907.
  • Williams, B.A., Ross, C.F., Frost, S.R., Waddle, D., Gabadirwe, M., Brook, G. (2012) Fossil Papio cranium from !Ncumtsa (Koanaka) Hills, western Ngamiland, Botswana. American Journal of Physical Anthropology DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22093.


A little history

I moved to the U.S. in 1987 to go to graduate school at Duke University.  I received my PhD from there in 1993 for my research into the biomechanical significance of the postorbital septum in anthropoid primates. I was advised by Drs. Bill Hylander and Matt Cartmill. I then held a postdoctoral research fellowship in Johannesburg for 1 year before moving to Stony Brook University on Long Island in 1994. At Stony Brook, I was fortunate to work and teach in the Department of Anatomical Sciences for 10 years. I moved to the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at University of Chicago in 2004.

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