Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 736–741 | Cite as

A conspicuous courtship signal in the fiddler crab Uca perplexa: female choice based on display structure

  • Minoru Murai
  • Patricia R. Y. Backwell
Original Article


The fiddler crab Uca perplexa has a conspicuous male courtship signal that is directed at females to attract them to the male’s burrow for mating. The signal involves waving the unflexed large claw up and down. To determine whether the spatiotemporal structure of the wave is under selection by female choice, we examined whether females had a preference for any particular features of the wave. Females respond to a waving display by either visiting the male’s burrow entrance or by electing to pass without visiting the burrow. We filmed mate-searching females and the waving males that they visited or passed. We documented the wave structure of these males using frame-by-frame analysis. Males produce a two-part wave with component A preceding component B. Both components have an upstroke, a pause at the apex and a downstroke. The tip of the claw was raised much higher in B than in A. Visited males had a shorter delay between the two wave components than did males that the females passed without visiting. Visited males also produced component B waves that had a slower upstroke than those of passed males. There was a significant correlation between the relative height of the raised claw and the duration of the upstroke of component B. Females were selecting males that raised their major claw to the highest position (two to three times as high as the carapace width). Passed males brought down their major claw earlier and from a lower position than did visited males. The data suggests that wave structure has evolved through female choice. Male display rate and body size were not female choice cues. An earlier study showed that display duration was also not used by females in selecting mates.


Courtship signal Claw waving Female choice Fiddler crab 



We are grateful to Yasuo Fukui and Yukio Nakasone for helpful discussions. We thank Shigeo Nakamura and Yoshikatsu Nakano for their technical support and three anonymous referees for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by a research grant from University of the Ryukyus. The experiments comply with the current laws in Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tropical Biosphere Research CenterUniversity of the RyukyusMotobuJapan
  2. 2.School of Botany and ZoologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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