Effects of Manipulated Diet on Size and Performance of Brachyuran Crab Claws

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Science  29 Apr 1994:
Vol. 264, Issue 5159, pp. 710-712
DOI: 10.1126/science.264.5159.710


Crabs grown experimentally on fully shelled prey developed larger and stronger claws than those raised on nutritionally equivalent unshelled prey. When one claw was immobilized, claws also became asymmetrical. These use-induced changes differ from skeletal remodelling in vertebrates and many invertebrates because changes in the rigid exoskeleton can occur only after molting, and claw muscle mass must be reduced substantially before the molt. Such short-term adaptive responses to environmental stimuli, if heritable, could yield long-term evolutionary changes in claw size and, if combined with behavioral biases toward one side (handedness), could also promote the evolution of claw dimorphism.