, Volume 62, Issue 7, pp 1139-1147
Date: 09 Jan 2008

To court or not to court: reproductive decisions by male fiddler crabs in response to fluctuating food availability

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Abstract

For males, courting and foraging are often behavioral alternatives, which take time and consume energy. When males have a possibility of mating with receptive females, there may be a behavioral trade-off between courtship and feeding; the outcome of which may be affected by male physiological condition and food availability. Although many mathematical models and empirical studies suggest that the expression of male courtship signals are condition-dependent, decisions about courtship and mating strategies in relation to food availability have not attracted much attention. In this study, we tested whether daily changes in food availability affect males’ decisions about whether to court. We conducted experiments with the fiddler crab Uca lactea by providing males with additional food every other day. In food-supplemented enclosures, males did not increase courtship activity on the days when food was supplemented. However, they built more courtship structures (semidomes) and waved more on the days when they were not given additional food. Male size had a strong influence on the number of days the males courted. We also tested whether the frequency of surface mating, as an alternative reproductive tactic, decreased when food was supplemented. Contrary to our expectation, the number of males that exhibited the surface-mating tactic increased when food was supplemented whereas the number of mate-searching females did not change. Our findings in this field study suggest that reproductive decisions by male fiddler crabs are affected by fluctuating food availability and present body condition, and the alternative mating tactic of this species may be more frequently used by males under good condition.

Communicated by P. Backwell