, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 210-217
Date: 14 May 2003

The effect of food availability on the semilunar courtship rhythm in the fiddler crab Uca lactea (de Haan) (Brachyura: Ocypodidae)

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Semilunar or lunar reproductive rhythms that follow tidal cycles are common in marine animals. For brachyuran crabs, an adaptive explanation for the synchronous release of larvae in phase with the tidal cycle is that females release larvae when their offspring are best able to escape predators. As a corollary to this hypothesis, the synchronous male reproductive cycle is selected to be in phase with female receptivity. As an alternative hypothesis, we propose that variation in food abundance influences the onset and intensity of the semilunar courtship cycle. We tested this hypothesis in male fiddler crabs (Uca lactea) by experimentally manipulating food availability for 4 weeks. Food-supplemented males built more semidomes and waved for more days than did food-deprived males or untreated control males. Moreover, food-supplemented males began courtship earlier and the median courtship day advanced with an increase in food. Courtship intensity was not related to crab size. These results provide the first evidence in marine animals that changes in food abundance due to the tides, and hence in phase with the semilunar cycle, influence male reproductive rhythm.

Communicated by T. Czeschlik