The temporomandibular joint disc of Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and African elephant (Loxodonta africana)

Boaz Arzi, Vincent P. Willard, Daniel J. Huey, Frank J Verstraete, Natalia Vapniarsky Arzi, Kyriacos A. Athanasiou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a synovial articulation between the mandibular head of the condylar process of the mandible and the mandibular fossa of the squamous temporal bone. Extensions of the fibrous capsule into the joint space form a biconcave disc that functions as an articulating surface and divides the joint into dorsal and ventral compartments. The TMJ disc plays a crucial role in normal functioning of the joint, and differences in cranial morphology, mastication patterns, and diet are reflected in the material and biochemical properties of the disc. The purpose of the present case study was to compare the regional histologic differences between two elephant genera and quantify the biochemical and biomechanical properties of the African elephant disc. This study provides a unique insight into the elephant TMJ disc and also provides a comparison between the African and the Asian elephant genera. The results demonstrate several remarkable findings. First, structure-function relationships exist within the elephant TMJ disc. Second, regional variations exist in the elephant TMJ disc, and these are likely to correlate with its functional requirement. Additionally, it is apparent that some properties of the disc vary with the specific anatomy, diet requirement, and jaw motion. Finally, in comparison with the TMJ disc of other species, it is clear that, although the elephant disc is unique, it has properties that transcend and are preserved among the species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-459
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Wildlife Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Disc
  • Elephant
  • Jaws
  • Temporomandibular joint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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