© 2016 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.Insects show a remarkable diversity of muscle configurations, yet the factors leading to this functional diversity are poorly understood. Here, we use musculoskeletal modelling to understand the spatio-temporal activity of an insect muscle in several dragonfly species and to reveal potential mechanical factors leading to a particular muscle configuration. Bite characteristics potentially show systematic signal, but absolute bite force is not correlated with size. Muscle configuration and inverse dynamics show that the wider relative area of muscle attachment and the higher activity of subapical muscle groups are responsible for this high bite force. This wider attachment area is, however, not an evolutionary trend within dragonflies. Our inverse dynamic data, furthermore, show that maximum bite forces most probably do not reflect maximal muscle force production capability in all studied species. The thin head capsule and the attachment areas of muscles most probably limit the maximum force output of the mandibular muscles.