Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 183, Issue 3, pp 367–377 | Cite as

Homing in fiddler crabs (Uca lactea annulipes and Uca vomeris : Ocypodidae)

  • Jochen Zeil


Fiddler crabs emerge from burrows on intertidal sand- and mudflats to feed during low tide. In the species studied here (Uca lactea annulipes, Uca vomeris) a crab normally wanders no more than about 1 m away from its burrow and, when frightened, dashes back along a straight line to take cover. Feeding crabs tend to move sideways, without changing orientation, along paths radiating from the burrow. When they move along circumferential paths they adjust their orientation so that one side continues to point towards the burrow. The crabs do not need to see the burrow in order to stay aligned with the home vector, and they are not misled by a dummy hole close to their own burrow unless they have come to within about 10 cm of it. The home runs of crabs end within a few centimeters of a burrow that is covered with a sheet of sandpaper and then give way to search runs, centred upon a position slightly short of the burrow location. Feeding crabs can be displaced on sandpapers and their subsequent home runs end at a position where the burrow would be, had there been no displacement. Landmarks close to the burrow do not influence the home runs of displaced crabs. Crabs that are rotated on a sheet of sandpaper, counter-turn to keep their original orientation constant. Fiddler crabs thus employ path integration with external compass information and close range visual guidance for homing.

Key words Fiddler crabs Uca lactea annulipes Uca vomeris Homing Path integration 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jochen Zeil
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Visual Sciences, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University, P.O. Box 475, Canberra, A.C.T. 2601, Australia e-mail:; Fax: +61-2-6249-3808AU

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