The role of claw color in species recognition and mate choice in a fiddler crab

Dyson, M. L.; Perez, D. M.; Curran, T.; McCullough, E. L. and Backwell, P. R. Y. (2020). The role of claw color in species recognition and mate choice in a fiddler crab. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 74, article no. 116.



Many animal signals are brightly colored and convey information about species identity as well as information about individual conspecifics. Colorful bird and lizard signals have received much attention, and many studies have related specific spectral properties of these signals to variation in mating success and territory defense. Far less attention has been given to invertebrates even though there are spectacularly colorful species. The enlarged claw of the male banana fiddler crab Austruca mjoebergi, for example, is bright yellow and contrasts vividly against the mudflat substrate. It is used in waving displays to attract females and in male territory defense and combat. Claw color varies among males in the degree of “yellowness,” ranging very pale yellow to orange. In this study we examined female responses to claw color variation in two-choice tests using robotic crabs. We found that although females strongly discriminate against colors that fall outside the natural range of intensity, hue and chroma, they show no consistent preferences for different claw colors within the natural range, and no single component of claw color (hue, chroma or intensity) independently affected female choices. Using three-choice tests, we also showed that female preferences induce stabilizing selection on male claw color. We conclude that, although claw color is sufficient to facilitate species recognition, it is unlikely to be used in intraspecific mate choice to provide information about male quality.

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