Force, function and mechanical advantage in the chelae of the American lobster Homarus americanus (Decapoda: Crustacea)



The dimorphic chelae from both sexes and a wide size range of American lobsters, Homarus americanus, were studied with respect to allometry, mechanical advantage, closer muscle apodeme area and occlusive surface morphology. The maximum forces produced by the crusher and cutter chelae were estimated by an in vitro and a static in vivo technique. Another in vivo technique, involving strain gauges, was used to measure the forces delivered by crusher chelae. The latter technique gave data on force pulse duration and frequency, and in combination with a video-recording system could be useful for future studies of predation behaviour. The maximum forces generated increased with chela height for both crusher and cutter chelae. A maximum force of 256 Newtons (N) was recorded near the middle of the crusher dactyl from a 172-mm carapace length lobster, by the strain gauge technique. Crusher chelae developed larger maximum forces than cutter chelae of the same height. This was attributable more to the crusher chela's higher mechanical advantage than to its developing higher input forces. The mean mechanical advantage for male crusher (0.33) was significantly higher than that for female crusher chelae (0.29). Male and female cutter chelae had the same mean mechanical advantage values (0.16). Values for maximum stress developed during contraction in both the crusher and cutter chela closer muscles decreased with chela size. The morphology of the chelae correlated to the forces produced and predation behaviour.