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Female Choice in the Synchronously Waving Fiddler Crab Uca annulipes


Corresponding author: P. R. Y. Backwell, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Unit 0948, APO AA 34002–0948, USA. E-mail:


In the fiddler crab, Uca annulipes, males attract receptive females into their burrows by waving their greatly enlarged major claw. We have previously shown that males clustered around a female wave in close synchrony. Females may have a preference for leading signals and synchronised waving may arise as an epiphenomenon of competition between males to signal first. Indeed, the males in clusters that females approach and visit in their burrows are more likely to produce leading waves than are their neighbours. Here we document two other differences in the waving behaviour of visited males and their neighbours. First, visited males complete the downward component of the wave more rapidly than their neighbours. Second, the interval between the end of one wave and the start of the next is shorter for visited males. How can waving be synchronous if visited males wave faster than their neighbours? While only 9% (40/431) of waves by neighbours did not overlap those of the visited male, 22% (110/501) of visited male waves did not overlap the wave of a focal neighbour (111 visited male-neighbour dyads). Hence, while overlapping waves are nearly synchronous, visited males produce additional, ‘nonoverlapping’ waves that result in a higher wave rate than that of their neighbours.

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