Waving Display in Females of Uca polita and of other Australian Fiddler Crabs


Fachbereich Biologie, Zoologie, Philipps-Universität, Postfach 1929, W-3550 Marburg/Lahn, F. R. Germany.


Since 1979 it is known that, in Australian species of Uca, female waving exists in addition to usual male display. The present paper deals mainly with female waving in U. polita studied in Darwin (North Australia). A few remarks on U. dampieri, U. vomeris, U. seismella and U. hirsutimanus are added. The species mentioned are members of two species groups or subgenera, which characterizes female waving as an ancestral (plesiomorph) trait.

Frame by frame analysis of film sequences (open air shots) indicate homology of movements in the two sexes of U. polita. As in males, waving of females can be combined with locomotion on radial paths starting from the burrow entrance and the display is performed in series with a corresponding number of gestures. Unlike males, waving females mostly use both their chelipeds and tend to show shorter durations with regard to many of the waving parameters chosen. However, significant differences refer only to a limited number of parameters.

The biological context of female waving was gathered from films and field observations. High intensity waving is released by conspecifics approaching from far (wanderers without burrows) and from the neighbourhood. Typically, only females and small males elicit high intensity display in a resident female. Waving normally stops in presence of larger males, especially of the male living in a resident breeding unit with the female in question.

In spite of this, a pure agonistic (defensive) character of female waving is unlikely. Advertising of breeding condition seems to play a role similar to that in males. The few displaying females that exist in a given colony (about 2.5% in U. polita) show signs of special sexual excitement: brightening of carapace colours and sometimes spontaneous performance of waving, i.e. display immediately after emergence from the burrow in absence of any conspecific.