Skip to main content
Log in

Pillar building in the fiddler crab Uca beebei: evidence for a condition-dependent ornament

  • Published:
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

In the fiddler crab (Uca beebei) males build a small mud pillar next to their burrow which increases their attractiveness to females. Three hypotheses were tested to explain inter-male variation in pillar-building. (1) The benefits of pillar-building are density dependent. The experimental addition of vertical structures did not support this hypothesis as there was no change in the level of pillar-building. (2) There are two classes of males (pillar-builders and non-pillar-builders). This could either be due to an alternative mating strategy, or because pillar building is age or size-dependent. There was also no support for this hypothesis. (3) Pillar-building is an honest signal of male quality dependent on body condition. A food supplementation experiment was performed. Addition of food affected several aspects of male behaviour and resulted in a two fold increase in the number of pillars built between control and food treatments (P < 0.001). However, the percentage of males building pillars did not increase significantly. Pillar building in this species has been attributed to sensory exploitation. Our results indicate that a trait which may well have evolved through sensory exploitation also appears to be condition-dependent. We emphasise that showing that an ornament or behaviour is condition-dependent does not necessarily mean that it evolved through “good gene” processes. However, in terms of its current selective value, pillar building may be maintained through female choice because it acts as a signal of male condition.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Arak A (1988) Female mate selection in the natterjack toad: active choice or passive attraction. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22:317–327

    Google Scholar 

  • Balmford A, Read AF (1991) Testing alternative models of sexual selection through female choice. Trends Ecol Evol 6:274–276

    Google Scholar 

  • Balmford A, Thomas ALR, Jones IL (1993) Aerodynamics and the evolution of long tails in birds. Nature 361:628–631

    Google Scholar 

  • Basolo AL (1990) Female preference predates the evolution of the sword in swordtail fish. Science 250:808–809

    Google Scholar 

  • Bennet-Clark HC, Ewing AW (1967) Stimuli provided by courtship of male Drosophila melanogaster. Nature 215:669–671

    Google Scholar 

  • Christy JH (1988a) Pillar function in the fiddler crab Uca beebei (I): effects on male spacing and aggression. Ethology 78:53–71

    Google Scholar 

  • Christy JH (1988b) Pillar function in the fiddler crab Uca beebei (II): competitive courtship signalling. Ethology 78:113–128

    Google Scholar 

  • Christy JH, Salmon M (1991) Comparative studies of reproductive behavior in mantis shrimps and fiddler crabs. Am Zool 31:329–337

    Google Scholar 

  • Crane J (1975) Fiddler crabs of the world, Ocypodidae, genus Uca. Princeton University Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  • Enquist M, Arak A (1993) Selection for exaggerated male traits by female aesthetic preferences. Nature 351:446–448

    Google Scholar 

  • Evans MR (1991) The size of adornments of male scarlet-tufted malachite sunbirds varies with environmental conditions, as predicted by handicap theory. Anim Behav 42:797–803

    Google Scholar 

  • Grafen A (1990a) Sexual selection unhandicapped by the Fisher process. J Theor Biol 44:475–516

    Google Scholar 

  • Grafen A (1990b) Biological signals as handicaps. J Theor Biol 144: 517–546

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gould SJ, Vrba E (1982) Exaptation: a missing term in the science of form. Paleobiology 8:4–15

    Google Scholar 

  • Höglund J, Kalas JA, Fiske P (1992) The costs of secondary sexual characters in the lekking great snipe (Gallingo media). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 30:309–315

    Google Scholar 

  • Iwasa Y, Pomiankowski A, Nee S (1991) The evolution of costly mate preferences. II. The handicap principle. Evolution 45: 1431–1442

    Google Scholar 

  • Jennions MD (1993) Female choice in birds and the cost of long tails. Trends Ecol Evol 8:230–232

    Google Scholar 

  • Kirkpatrick M (1982) Sexual selection and the evolution of female choice. Evolution 36:1–12

    Google Scholar 

  • Kirkpatrick M, Ryan MJ (1991) The evolution of mating preferences and the paradox of the lek. Nature 350:33–38

    Google Scholar 

  • Kodric-Brown A, Brown JH (1984) Truth in advertising: the kinds of traits favoured by sexual selection. Amer Nat 124:309–323

    Google Scholar 

  • Lande R (1981) Models of speciation by sexual selection on polygenic traits. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 78:3721–3725

    Google Scholar 

  • Marchetti K (1993) Dark habitats and bright birds illustrate the role of the environment in species divergence. Nature 362: 149–152

    Google Scholar 

  • Meyer A, Morissey JM, Schartl M (1994) Recurrent origin of a sexually selected trait in Xiphophorus fishes inferred from a molecular phylogeny. Nature 368:539–542

    Google Scholar 

  • Møller AP (1994) Sexual selection and the barn swallow. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Mumme RL (1992) Do helpers increase reproductive success? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 31:319–328

    Google Scholar 

  • Norris K (1993) Heritable variation in a plumage indicator of viability in male great tits Parus major. Nature 362:537–539

    Google Scholar 

  • Pomiankowski A (1994) Swordplay and sensory bias. Nature 368: 494–495

    Google Scholar 

  • Pomiankowski A, Sheridan L (1994) Linked sexiness and choosiness. Trends Ecol Evol 9:242–244

    Google Scholar 

  • Pomiankowski A, Iwasa Y, Nee S (1991) The evolution of costly mate preferences. I. Fisher and biased mutation. Evolution 45: 1422–1430

    Google Scholar 

  • Proctor HC (1991) Courtship in the water mite Neumania papillator: males capitalise on female adaptations for predation. Anim Behav 42:589–598

    Google Scholar 

  • Proctor HC (1992) Sensory exploitation and the evolution of male mating behaviour: a cladistic test using water mites (Acari: Parasitengona). Anim Behav 44:745–752

    Google Scholar 

  • Reeve HK, Sherman PW (1993) Adaptation and the goals of evolutionary research. Q Rev Biol 68:1–32

    Google Scholar 

  • Reynolds JD, Gross MR (1990) Costs and benefits of female mate choice: is there a lek paradox? Am Nat 136:230–243

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryan MJ (1985) The Tungara frog. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryan MJ (1990) Sexual selection, sensory systems and sensory exploitation. Oxford Surv Evol Biol 7:157–195

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryan MJ, Keddy-Hector A (1992) Directional patterns of female mate choice and the role of sensory biases. Am Nat 139:S4-S35

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryan MJ, Rand AS (1993) Sexual selection and signal evolution: the ghost of signals past. Proc Roy Soc B 340:187–195

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegel S, Castellan NJ Jr (1988) Nonparametric statistics for the behavioral sciences. MacGraw-Hill, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Sutherland WJ, De Jong MCM (1991) The evolutionary stable strategy for secondary sexual characters. Behav Ecol 2:16–20

    Google Scholar 

  • Weary DM, Guilford TC, Weisman RG (1993) A product of discriminative learning may lead to female preferences for elaborate male traits. Evolution 47:333–336

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams GC (1966) Adaptation and natural selection. Princeton University Press, Princeton

    Google Scholar 

  • Zahavi A (1977) The cost of honesty: further remarks on the handicap principle. J Theor Biol 67:603–605

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Zeil J, Nalbach G, Nalbach HO (1986) Eyes, eye stalks and the visual world of semi-terrestrial crabs. J Comp Physiol A 159: 801–811

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Backwell, P.R., Jennions, M.D., Christy, J.H. et al. Pillar building in the fiddler crab Uca beebei: evidence for a condition-dependent ornament. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 36, 185–192 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00177795

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00177795

Key words

Navigation