Pinching forces in crayfish and fiddler crabs, and comparisons with the closing forces of other animals

J Comp Physiol B. 2008 Mar;178(3):333-42. doi: 10.1007/s00360-007-0226-8. Epub 2007 Dec 7.


The pinching forces of crustaceans are in many respects analogous to the biting forces of vertebrates. We examined the effects of body size and chelae size and shape, on the closing forces of the fiddler crab, Uca pugilator, and the crayfish, Procambarus clarkii. We hypothesized that the allometric relationships would be similar among species, and comparable to those reported for other decapod crustaceans. We further hypothesized that the scaling of the closing forces of crustaceans, with respect to body size and with the geometry of the pinching or biting structures, would be similar to that of vertebrates. We found that pinching forces increased with body mass, claw dimensions, and claw mass in U. pugilator, but only with claw height and claw mass in P. clarkii. Contraction time increased with body mass for both species combined, whereas contraction speed decreased. Pooled data for these and 17 other species of decapod crustacean revealed a positive correlation between the pinching force and body mass with a scaling exponent of 0.71. These data are remarkably comparable to the values on closing forces of vertebrate jaws, with the pooled data having a scaling exponent of 0.58, slightly below the value of 0.67 predicted for geometric similarity. Maximum closing forces vary tremendously among both crustaceans and animals in general, with body size and food habits being among the most important determining factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astacoidea / anatomy & histology
  • Astacoidea / physiology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Size / physiology
  • Brachyura / physiology*
  • Decapoda / physiology
  • Male