The Science of Nature

, 103:49 | Cite as

The vibrational signals that male fiddler crabs (Uca lactea) use to attract females into their burrows

  • Fumio TakeshitaEmail author
  • Minoru Murai
Original Paper


In some fiddler crab species, males emit vibrations from their burrows to mate-searching females after they have attracted a female to the burrow entrance using a waving display. Although the vibrations are considered acoustic signals to induce mating, it has not been demonstrated whether the vibrations attract the females into the burrow and, consequently, influence females’ mating decisions. We investigated the structures and patterns of the vibrations using a dummy female and demonstrated experimentally a female preference for male vibrations in Uca lactea in the field. The acoustic signals consisted of repetitions of pulses. The dominant frequency of the pulses decreased with male carapace width. The pulse length decreased slightly with an increasing number of vibrational repetitions, and the pulse interval increased with increasing repetitions. These factors imply that the vibrations convey information on male characteristics, such as body size and stamina. In the experiment on female mate choice, the females significantly preferred males with higher pulse repetition rates when they were positioned at the entrance of the burrow, indicating that the females use the male vibrational signals to decide whether to enter the burrow. However, females showed no preference for the vibrations once they were inside a burrow, i.e., whether they decided to copulate, suggesting that the vibrations do not independently affect a female’s final decision of mate choice. The vibrations inside the burrow might influence a female’s decision by interaction with other male traits such as the burrow structure.


Acoustic signal Communication Courtship Female mate choice Uca lactea 



We are grateful to Y. Henmi and T. Watanabe for their valuable input. K. Takahashi and R.C. Lombardo provided useful comments on a draft version of the manuscript. We also thank Sven Thatje and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (KAKENHI) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to FT.

Supplementary material

114_2016_1371_MOESM1_ESM.mpg (1.7 mb)
ESM 1 Courtship vibrations in male U. lactea. The vibrations were recorded using a contact microphone set behind a male semidome and were elicited using a dummy female model. The video was recorded using a digital single-lens reflex camera (Nikon D5000, Nikon Imaging Japan Inc., Japan) with zoom lens (Tamron XR Di II LD Aspherical MACRO, Tamron Co., Ltd., Japan). The vibrations were recorded separately from the video and subsequently combined with the video using a personal computer. (MPG 1716 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Fisheries Science and Environmental StudiesNagasaki UniversityNagasakiJapan
  2. 2.Tropical Biosphere Research CenterUniversity of the RyukyuOkinawaJapan

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