Infoscience

Journal article

Physics of chewing in terrestrial mammals

Previous studies on chewing frequency across animal species have focused on finding a single universal scaling law. Controversy between the different models has been aroused without elucidating the variations in chewing frequency. In the present study we show that vigorous chewing is limited by the maximum force of muscle, so that the upper chewing frequency scales as the -1/3 power of body mass for large animals and as a constant frequency for small animals. On the other hand, gentle chewing to mix food uniformly without excess of saliva describes the lower limit of chewing frequency, scaling approximately as the -1/6 power of body mass. These physical constraints frame the -1/4 power law classically inferred from allometry of animal metabolic rates. All of our experimental data stay within these physical boundaries over six orders of magnitude of body mass regardless of food types.

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