The jaws of different species of stag beetles show a large variety of shapes and sizes. The male jaws are used as weapons in fights, and they may exert a very forceful bite in some species. We investigated in 16 species whether and how their forcefulness is reflected in their jaw morphology. We found a large range of maximal muscle forces (1.8N-33N; factor 18). Species investing in large bite muscles, also have disproportionately large jaw volumes. They use this additional jaw volume to elongate their jaws, increasing their winning chances in battles. The fact that this also decreases the mechanical advantage, is largely compensated by elongated in-levers. As a result, high muscle forces are correlated with elevated bite forces (0.27N-7.6N; factor 28). Despite the large difference in forcefulness, all investigated species experience similar Von Mises stresses in their jaws while biting (29MPa–114MPa; factor 4.0; calculated with Finite Element simulations). Hence, stag beetles have successfully adapted their jaw anatomy according to their bite force in fights.
- Received April 7, 2016.
- Accepted July 15, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd