Marine Biology

, 166:162 | Cite as

Sound production and associated behaviours in the New Zealand paddle crab Ovalipes catharus

  • A. S. FloodEmail author
  • M. L. Goeritz
  • C. A. Radford
Original Paper


Despite growing evidence that crustaceans produce and detect sounds, the behavioural and biological function of these sounds is still poorly understood. Here, we describe sounds produced by the New Zealand paddle crab, Ovalipes catharus, and provide evidence of intraspecific communication using underwater sound. Acoustic and video analyses of tank-based experiments show that O. catharus produce at least three distinct sounds: the rasp, zip and bass. Notably, two of these sounds, the zip and bass, were directly correlated with post-copulatory mate-guarding and courtship behaviour and produced only by competing adult male crabs in the presence of a receptive female. Rasp sounds were produced by both sexes; the occurrence significantly increased in the presence of food, and play-back experiments of these sounds initiated a foraging-like behaviour. Responses to rasps might have evolved as a result of acoustic spying. Further, we show that both the rasp and bass sounds were produced by an alternative mechanism than stridulation of the chela ridges. This refutes widespread assumptions that Ovalipes crabs use only stridulation of ridges along their chelae to produce rasp-like sounds. Our results suggest that sound production in decapod crustaceans may be more widespread than previously presumed.



We would like to thank the staff at the Leigh Marine Laboratory, in particular Errol Murray and Peter Browne for their help building the experimental setup and assistance collecting animals. We would also like to thank Katya Ruggiero for statistical advice and Colin McLay for his expertise. We also thank our two anonymous reviewers and editor Martin Thiel for their valuable input and helpful suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for sampling, care and experimental use of organisms for the study have been followed and all necessary approvals have been obtained. All procedures involving animals were performed in accordance with the Ethical Standards of the University of Auckland and were approved by the Animal Ethics Committee (AEC), approval number 001721.

Data availability

The data sets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 301 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (WAV 344 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (WAV 3942 kb)
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Supplementary material 4 (WAV 174 kb)
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Supplementary material 5 (MP4 5620 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leigh Marine Laboratory, Institute of Marine ScienceUniversity of AucklandWarkworthNew Zealand

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