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Biomechanical determinants of bite force dimorphism in Cyclommatus metallifer stag beetles
Jana Goyens, Joris Dirckx, Manuel Dierick, Luc Van Hoorebeke, Peter Aerts


In the stag beetle family (Lucanidae), males have diverged from females by sexual selection. The males fight each other for mating opportunities with their enlarged mandibles. It is known that owners of larger fighting apparatuses are favoured to win the male–male fights, but it was unclear whether male stag beetles also need to produce high bite forces while grabbing and lifting opponents in fights. We show that male Cyclommatus metallifer stag beetles bite three times as forcefully as females. This is not entirely unexpected given the spectacular nature of the fights, but all the more impressive given the difficulty of achieving this with their long mandibles (long levers). Our results suggest no increase in male intrinsic muscle strength to accomplish this. However, morphological analyses show that the long mandibular output levers in males are compensated by elongated input levers (and thus a wider anterior side of the head). The surplus of male bite force capability is realized by enlargement of the closer muscles of the mandibles, while overall muscle force direction remained optimal. To enable the forceful bites required to ensure male reproductive success, male head size and shape are adapted for long input levers and large muscles. Therefore, the entire head should be regarded as an integral part of male armature.


  • Author contributions

    J.G. conducted the bite experiments, segmented the micro-CT scans and drafted the article. J.G., P.A. and J.D. were involved in the analyses and interpretation of the findings and revised the article. M.D. and L.V.H. executed the micro-CT scans, CT reconstruction and 3D renderings.

  • Competing interests

    The authors declare no competing financial interests.

  • Funding

    The present study was funded by BOF grant [ID BOF UA 2011-445-a] of the Research Council of University of Antwerp.

  • Supplementary material

    Supplementary material available online at http://jeb.biologists.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1242/jeb.091744/-/DC1

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