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Temporal Bone Processes: Zygomatic, Mastoid & Styloid

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Bones named after oxen yokes, pillars and breasts? This lesson will explore the processes of the temporal bone: the zygomatic process, the mastoid process and the styloid process. In addition, it will give some background information on each.

Temporal Bone

Your skull seems like one solid bone, right? Go ahead and feel around up there. Yep, seems like one big bone all right, but it's actually made up of all sorts of different bones! This lesson will focus on the processes of the temporal bones, which are two bones on either side of the head (see the orange section in the following image). Processes are the pieces of bone that protrude from, or come off of the temporal bone. What do you say? Let's get started!

The temporal bone is shown in orange
tempor

Zygomatic Process

Let's start our temporal bone tour with the zygomatic process of the temporal bone, which is a piece of bone that meets up with the zygomatic bone. If you feel your face, the zygomatic process helps to make up those lovely cheekbones you have!

The arrow is pointing to the zygomatic process
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The zygomatic bone, in case you're wondering, is shown in the following image.

The blue arrow is pointing to the zygomatic bone and the red arrow is pointing to the zygomatic process
zyg

The name 'zygomatic' means 'yoke' and actually gets its name because it looks like a yoke set on oxen. I guess I can kind of see the resemblance? Maybe? The zygomatic process is a place for muscle attachment, mainly muscles involved in chewing. In addition, this process of the temporal bone helps strengthen the entire cheekbone area.

The name zygomatic comes from the Greek word meaning yoke, as in a yoke for oxen
yo

Mastoid Process

Next on the tour is the mastoid process of the temporal bone, which is a bony projection behind the ear. Go ahead, touch behind your ear and you can feel it!

The mastoid process
mas

This process is important for the attachment of neck muscles and is filled with hollow, air-filled areas called mastoid cells that are involved in hearing. Here's another fun fact, the word 'mastoid' means 'breast' in Greek. It gets that name because it is kind of shaped like a breast. First a yoke and now a breast? Whoever named these bony projections sure had an imagination!

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