Chela asymmetry in a durophagous crab: Predominance of right-handedness and handedness reversal is linked to chela size and closing force

Nobufumi Masunari, Masanori Hiro-Oku, Shigeki Dan, Takahiro Nanri, Masayoshi Kondo, Masaki Goto, Yoshitake Takada, Masayuki Saigusa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The swimming crab Portunus trituberculatus is a durophagous brachyuran. Right-handed crabs are predominant, but left-handed crabs are also found in nature. Left-handedness may arise from loss of the right crusher.We examined whether heterochely (morphology) was correlated with differences in closing force (physical property) and handedness (behaviour). The closing forcewas stronger in larger chela with greater apodeme height and handedness resided in the chela with stronger closing force. With loss of the right chela (autotomy), handedness transitioned from the right to left chela, and all crabs were left-handed thereafter. Reversed handedness was accompanied with a reduction of size and closing force in the regenerated right chela, and growth of the original left chela. After handedness reversal, dentition on the left dactylus of the newlyconverted crusher was close to that of the original right crusher, but did not attain the same shape, even after 10 moults. Left-handed crabs were significantly worse than right-handed crabs at crushing hard-shelled prey. Chela formation was symmetrical in the zoea, and heterochely and right-handedness started in the megalopa, regardless of maternal handedness. Since the left chela is capable of being the crusher, heterochely may be caused by differences in morphogenetic velocity between the right and left chelae, under a signal discriminating right from left. Right-handedness is an attribute of P.Trituberculatus, that would be inheritable across generations. It is probable that right-handedness was used in the earliest durophagous crabs, and this trend has been succeeded to extant species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3658-3670
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Autotomy
  • Durophagy
  • Evolution
  • Handedness reversal
  • Linked morphogenic and functional regulation
  • Ontogeny
  • Portunus trituberculatus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Physiology
  • Insect Science
  • Aquatic Science


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