Temporal constraints and female preference for burrow width in the fiddler crab, Uca mjoebergi
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We studied sampling behaviour and mate choice in the fiddler crab Uca mjoebergi. Once a female selects a mate, she copulates in his burrow and remains there until releasing her aquatic larvae. U. mjoebergi occurs in habitats that are inundated only by the highest amplitude spring tides. Females can only release their larvae during these tides, and release before or after will result in complete failure of reproductive effort. Matings occur over a 5-day period near the end of neap tides. Our results suggest that within the mating period, females adjust their larval developmental rates by selecting specific burrows in which to incubate their clutches. We found that at the start of the mating period, females chose larger males as mates. Since male size was positively correlated to burrow width, females were selecting wide burrows and effectively incubating at lower temperatures. This would slow down the developmental rates of larvae. In contrast, females that mated late in the mating period selectively chose small males. By incubating in narrower, warmer burrows, these females may increase the developmental rates of larvae. We propose that females are selecting burrows to influence incubation rate and ensure timely release of their larvae. Female U. mjoebergi appear to adjust their preference for the direct benefits of mate choice to increase their reproductive success.
KeywordsFemale mate choice Temporal constraints Burrow width Development time Fiddler crab
Many thanks to Nicolas Telford for his invaluable assistance in the field, and Michael Jennions for statistical help. We also thank Catherine deRivera, John Christy, Stuart Cooney and two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved this manuscript.
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