Matthew Ravosa Professor

Evolutionary morphology and pathobiology of the mammalian skull, masticatory complex and musculoskeletal system
Matthew Ravosa

Research Interests:

Much like many members of the general public and scientific communities, I grew up fascinated by the astounding phenotypic variability of living and fossil organisms. Mammals are one such group that fails to disappoint. In this clade, the greater diversification and central role of the masticatory apparatus in food procurement and processing has figured prominently in studies of craniomandibular biomechanics and evolution. Indeed, being among the most highly mineralized, and thus well preserved, tissues in the body, craniodental (and postcranial) remains have long been used by paleontologists to offer novel insights into the behavior and phylogenetic affinities of extinct taxa.

Over the past three decades, my integrative research program has investigated major adaptive and structural transformations in mammalian musculoskeletal form during ontogeny and across higher-level clades. With an eye to both the evolutionary and translational implications, our lab has investigated the plasticity, mechanobiology, ecomorphology, aging and performance of the mammalian musculoskeletal system. Work on development, biomechanics and evolution has marshaled diverse and non-traditional sources of evidence to address outstanding issues concerning the complex underpinnings of patterns of phenotypic variation. To this end, we have employed of a broad range of modern cell biological, molecular, engineering and imaging techniques (immunostaining, histomorphometry, tissue properties testing, microarray, tissue culture, microCT, PCR) as well as unique experimental and transgenic animal models.

We have developed a rabbit model of dietary plasticity in cranial hard- and soft-tissues, which is being coupled with data on load-induced changes in gene expression patterns of jaw-joint cartilage. This evidence is being integrated with in vivo data regarding the relationship between food mechanical properties and chewing behavior. Such research also contributes to ongoing debate regarding the ecomorphological significance of dietary seasonal variability and daily patterns of feeding modality in cranial evolution among fossil and living organisms. Histomorphometric analyses have been applied to the developing proximal humerus and femur in growing mini-pigs. These first-ever long-term studies have applied a more naturalistic and integrative perspective to the plasticity and performance of multiple cranial and limb joints. Our lab has also investigated the first mouse model of neural encephalization, which has important implications for understanding prenatal development, cranial dysmorphologies and the evolution of the remarkably large brain in humans. These findings are being coupled with in vitro analyses of site-specific variation in the mechanobiology of bone cells, dura mater cells and cartilage cells. Ongoing macroscale tests of the properties and biomechanics of an ossified mandibular symphysis, a jaw-joint feature characteristic of modern anthropoids, has capitalized on various analytical and technical methods common to engineering. Investigation of the dynamic links among skeletal safety factors, masticatory stresses and cortical bone formation has highlighted critical similarities and differences in loading patterns between vertebrate skulls and limbs. From a clinical and bioengineering standpoint, such information is important for characterizing strain-mediated responses necessary for mimicking the natural growth activity of connective tissues. Finally, we are developing a rabbit model of osteonecrosis of the jaw, a debilitating oral disease associated with long-term bisphosphonate therapy used in treating bone metastases and osteoporosis.

In synthesizing seemingly disparate sources of biological evidence and novel techniques, we have sought to uniquely address a number of difficult and longstanding questions regarding the function, development, pathobiology and evolution of the musculoskeletal system, skull and feeding complex in mammals and other vertebrates.



  • Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Concurrent Professor, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
  • Concurrent Professor, Department of Anthropology
  • PhD, Northwestern University
  • Postdoctoral, Duke University Medical Center


Recent Papers:

  • Mitchell, D.R., Wroe, S., Ravosa, M.J. & Menegaz, R.A. (2021) More challenging diets sustain feeding performance: Applications towards captive rearing of wildlife. Integrative Organismal Biology 3:obab030. (cover image)
  • Kraatz, D., Belabbas, R., Fostowicz-Frelik, Ł., Ge, D.-Y., Kuznetsov, A.N., Lang, M., Lopez-Torres, S., Racicot, R.A., Ravosa, M.J., Sharp, A.C., Sherratt, E., Silcox, M.T., Słowiak, J., Winker, A.J. & Ruf, I. (2021) Lagomorpha as a model organism. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution: Phylogenetics, Phylogenomics, and Systematics 9:ar636402.
  • Nett, E.M., Jaglowski, B., Ravosa, L.J., Ravosa, D.D. & Ravosa, M.J. (2021) Mechanical properties of food and masticatory behavior in llamas, Llama glama. Journal of Mammalogy 102:1375-1389.
  • Lad, S.E., Anderson, R.J., Cortese, S.A., Alvarez, C.E., Danison, A.D., Morris, H.M. & Ravosa, M.J. (2021) Bone remodeling and cyclical loading in maxillae of New Zealand white rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Anatomical Record 304A:1927-1936.
  • Terhune, C.E., Sylvester, A.D., Scott, J.E. & Ravosa, M.J. (2020) Trabecular architecture of the mandibular condyle of rabbits is related to dietary resistance during growth. Journal of Experimental Biology 223:jeb220988.  (cover image)
  • Ravosa, M.J. & Vinyard, C.J. (2020) Masticatory loading and ossification of the mandibular symphysis during anthropoid origins. Nature Scientific Reports 10:5950.
  • Asem, M., Young, A., Oyama, C., ClaureDeLaZerda, A., Liu, Y., Ravosa, M.J., Gupta, V., Khabele, D. & Stack, M.S. (2020) Ascites-induced compression alters the peritoneal microenvironment and promotes metastatic success in ovarian cancer. Nature Scientific Reports 10:11913.
  • Nett, E.M. & Ravosa, M.J. (2020) Allometric and phylogenetic diversity in lorisiform orbit orientation. A.K. Nekaris & A.M. Burrows (Eds.): Behaviour, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Lorises and Pottos. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 113-128.
  • Nett, E.M. & Ravosa, M.J. (2019) Ontogeny of orbit orientation in primates. Anatomical Record 302A:2093-2104.
  • Klymenko, Y., Wates, R.B., Weiss-Bilka, H., Lombard, R., Liu, Y., Campbell, L., Kim, O., Wagner, D., Ravosa, M.J. & Stack, M.S. (2018) Modeling the effect of ascites-induced compression on ovarian cancer multicellular aggregates. Disease Models Mechanisms 11:doi:10.1242/dmm.034199.
  • Weiss-Bilka, H.E., Brill, J.A. & Ravosa, M.J. (2018) Non-sutural basicranium-derived cells undergo unique mineralization pathway via a cartilage intermediate in vitro. PeerJ 6:e5757.
  • Loughran, E.A., Leonard, A.K., Hilliard, T.S., Phan, R.C., Yemc, M.G., Harper, E., Sheedy, E., Klymenko, Y., Asem, M., Liu, Y., Yang, J., Johnson, J., Tarwater, L., Shi, Z., Leevy, M., Ravosa, M.J. & Stack, M.S. (2018) Aging increases susceptibility to ovarian cancer metastasis in murine allograft models and alters immune composition in peritoneal adipose tissue. Neoplasia 20:621-631.
  • Leonard, A.K., Loughran, E.A., Klymenko, Y., Liu, Y., Kim, O., Asem, M., McAbee, K., Ravosa, M.J. & Stack, M.S. (2018) Methods for the visualization and analysis of extracellular matrix protein structure and degradation. R.P. Mecham (Ed.): Methods in Cell Biology: Methods in Extracellular Matrix Biology, Volume 143. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press, pp. 79-96.
  • Loughran, E.A., Phan, R.C., Leonard, A.K., Tarwater, L., Asem, M., Liu, Y., Yang, J., Klymenko, Y., Johnson, J., Shi, Z., Hilliard, T., Blumenthaler, M., Leevy, M., Ravosa, M.J. & Stack, M.S. (2017) Multiparity activates interferon pathways in peritoneal adipose tissue and decreases susceptibility to ovarian cancer metastasis in a murine allograft model. Cancer Letters 411:74-81.
  • Menegaz, R.A. & Ravosa, M.J. (2017) Ontogenetic and functional modularity in the rodent mandible. Zoology 124:61-72.
  • Thompson, K.D., Weiss-Bilka, H.E., McGough, E.B. & Ravosa, M.J. (2017) Bone up: Craniofacial development and hard-tissue biomineralization in neonate mice. Zoology 124:51-60.
  • Ravosa, M.J. & Kane, R.J. (2017) Dietary variation and mechanical properties of articular cartilage in the temporomandibular joint: Implications for the role of plasticity in mechanobiology and pathobiology. Zoology 124:42-50.
  • Franks, E.M., Scott, J.E., McAbee, K.R., Scollan, J.P., Eastman, M.M. & Ravosa, M.J. (2017) Intracranial and hierarchical perspective on dietary plasticity in mammals. Zoology 124:30-41.
  • Hunckler, M.D., Chu, E.D., Baumann, A.P., Curtis, T.E., Ravosa, M.J., Allen, M.R. & Roeder, R.K. (2017) The fracture toughness of small animal cortical bone measured using arc-shaped tension specimens: Effects of bisphosphonate treatment. Bone 105:67-74.
  • Ritzman, T.B., Banovich, N., Buss, K.P., Guida, J., Rubel, M., Pinney, J., Khang, B., Ravosa, M.J. & Stone, A.C. (2017) Facing the facts: Changes in the Runx2 gene modulates facial morphology in primates. Journal of Human Evolution 111:139-151.
  • Congdon, K.A. & Ravosa, M.J. (2016) Get a grip: Substrate orientation and digital grasping pressures in strepsirrhines. Folia Primatologica 87:224-243.
  • Ravosa, M.J., Menegaz, R.A., Scott, J.E., Daegling, D.J. & McAbee, K.R. (2016) Limitations of a morphological criterion of adaptive inference in the fossil record. Biological Reviews 91:883-898.
  • Bruney, L., Liu, Y.Y., Grisoli, A., Ravosa, M.J. & Stack, M.S. (2016) Integrin-linked kinase activity modulates the pro-metastatic behavior of ovarian cancer cells. Oncotarget 7:21968-21981.
  • Franks, E.M., Holton, N.E., Scott, J.E., McAbee, K.R., Rink, J.T., Pax, K., Pasquinelly, A.C., Scollan, J.P., Eastman, M.M. & Ravosa, M.J. (2016) Betwixt and between: Intracranial perspective on zygomatic arch plasticity and function in mammals. Anatomical Record 299A:1646-1660.