The question of what role differential jaw mechanics may have played in facilitating dietary niche partitioning among Late Cretaceous megaherbivorous dinosaurs from Laramidia is examined, using the fossil assemblage of the Dinosaur Park Formation as a test case. We use phylogenetic inference to reconstruct the mandibular adductor musculature of these animals, which we then apply to the construction of biomechanical lever models of the mandible to estimate relative bite forces. Our findings reveal predictably weak bite forces in ankylosaurs, and comparatively high bite forces in ceratopsids and hadrosaurids, both of which possessed a mechanical advantage that produced bite forces 2–3 times higher than those forces exerted by the adductor musculature. The impressive jaw mechanism shared by the last two taxa evolved in a stepwise fashion, independently in each lineage. There is tentative evidence to suggest that nodosaurids had more powerful bites than ankylosaurids, but the overall mechanical diversity among megaherbivores from the Dinosaur Park Formation is low, suggesting that differential jaw mechanics could have played only a subsidiary role in niche partitioning. Such mechanical conservatism may have may have been selected for, or it may simply reflect the limits imposed by evolutionary constraints. Regardless, mechanical disparity patterns remained stable throughout the ∼1.5 Ma evolution of the Dinosaur Park Formation megaherbivore chronofauna.
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