DOI: 10.1111/ivb.12409 ISSN:

Size, but not sex, predicts pinch force and exoskeleton mechanical properties in crayfish of the genus Faxonius

Derek M. Benson, Ethan D. Clotfelter
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Studies of animal weaponry and defensive structures rarely take into consideration their underlying mechanical properties. We measured the compressive strength and thickness of the exoskeleton of the claw (chela) in two North American crayfish species, Faxonius virilis and F. limosus. We performed similar measures on the carapace, a body region not directly involved in agonistic contests. Males of both species generated significantly stronger maximum pinch forces than females. However, these differences can be attributed to differences in claw size between the sexes. The thickness (ultrastructure) of the claw exoskeleton was a significant predictor of its compressive strength and likely explained the difference in compressive strength we observed between the two species. Neither claw thickness nor claw compressive strength was correlated with maximum pinch force. Additionally, we found that crayfish body size was a strong predictor of carapace compressive strength and thickness, whereas sex was not. The claw had greater compressive strength and thickness than the corresponding values for the carapace. Our study shows that the mechanical properties of the crayfish exoskeleton are largely a function of size and highlights the need to integrate mechanical properties into studies of animal morphology and performance.

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