Chela morphology and muscle stress were compared between temperate and tropical populations of stone crabs Menippe mercenuriu (Say) to test whether environmental differences might result in greater crushing strength in the tropics. Such differences include increased crab diversity in the tropics (which might lead to greater fighting among congeners), increased prey exoskeleton calcification in the tropics, and year round chela use in the tropics as opposed to seasonal chela use in the temperate population.

No latitudinal differences were found in any aspect of chela morphology, including relative chela size, mechanical advantage, apodeme surface area, and angle of muscle fibre pinnation. Summer measurements of crusher chela muscle stress were also similar between the two populations.

The maximum muscle stress determined for M. mercenariu was 220 N ∼r n -∼, much higher than stress levels previously reported for crustaceans. Other researchers have typically measured forces either from autotomized chelae or by measuring forces required to open a closed chelae. I have determined muscle stress using a force transducer that measures active gripping strength in live crabs.