Leverage and muscle type in crab chelae (Crustacea: Brachyura)



The chelae of Cancer pagurus and Macropipus depurator were examined with respect to mechanical advantage. The closer muscles were investigated with respect to sarcomere length in the constituent fibres and to the force developed by the whole muscle during isometric contraction. Cancer chelae have a relatively high mechanical advantage, 0.329 ± 001. Cancer closer muscles contain a high proportion of fibres with long sarcomeres, mean lengths mostly falling between 12 and 15 μm, and develop a maximum stress of about 496 kN.m−2 during contraction. These figures are typical for “slow” crustacean muscle. The chelae of M. depurator are dimorphic. In one, the strong chela, the mechanical advantage is 0.248 ± 0.066 while in the other, the fast chela, the mechanical advantage is 0.177 ± 0.006. M. depurator closer muscles contain fibres with mean sarcomere lengths mostly falling between 6 and 10 μm. The muscle develops a maximum stress of about 145 kN.m2 during contraction. These figures are typical of “intermediate” crustacean muscles. “Fast” muscle fibres with short sarcomeres (about 30 um) were found in the chelae of both Cancer and M. depurator but were much commoner in the latter. Thus in Cancer a high mechanical advantage is correlated with slow muscle while in M. depurator lower mechanical advantages are broadly correlated with faster muscle. Consistent correlation between mechanical advantage and muscle type in the dimorphic chelae of M. depurator, however, is lacking. No consistent regionation of fibres with similar properties was found in the muscles.