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The reliability of finite element analysis (FEA) in biomechanical investigations depends upon understanding the influence of model assumptions. In producing finite element models, surface mesh resolution is influenced by the resolution of input geometry, and influences the resolution of the ensuing solid mesh used for numerical analysis. Despite a large number of studies incorporating sensitivity studies of the effects of solid mesh resolution there has not yet been any investigation into the effect of surface mesh resolution upon results in a comparative context. Here we use a dataset of crocodile crania to examine the effects of surface resolution on FEA results in a comparative context. Seven high-resolution surface meshes were each down-sampled to varying degrees while keeping the resulting number of solid elements constant. These models were then subjected to bite and shake load cases using finite element analysis. The results show that incremental decreases in surface resolution can result in fluctuations in strain magnitudes, but that it is possible to obtain stable results using lower resolution surface in a comparative FEA study. As surface mesh resolution links input geometry with the resulting solid mesh, the implication of these results is that low resolution input geometry and solid meshes may provide valid results in a comparative context.
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