Factors leading to the separation of mating behaviours were investigated in the sand-bubbler crab, Scopimera globosa. The crabs mated on the surface (surface copulation, SC) and underground (UC). UC males were large (old) whilst SC males were small (young). Burrowless females bred in the UC males' burrows. These females accepted UC in exchange for access to a burrow. UC occurred much more frequently than SC in the burrow area in which females oviposited. Most SC occurred in the water-saturated area affording a rich diet. SC was accepted by most large and small females in both areas and most UC by small females in the burrow area. SC was an alternative to UC for males in that there was a size dependence between types of copulation. These two mating behaviours involved different degrees of interaction with neighbouring males. Males attempting to carry a female to their burrows for UC were more often disturbed by other males than were males attempting SC. In the interaction for both UC and SC, larger males were likely to resist the disturbances. UC males needed their own burrows, but these burrows were not enlarged before mating. UC males have a higher paternity of eggs than SC males, because SC males' sperm is often displaced by other males. Thus, UC was a behaviour with relatively higher costs and benefits for male crabs than SC behaviour. Alternative mating behaviours in male S. globosa are conditional, and explained by intrasexual interactions and a male life history strategy with a trade-off between growth and reproduction. It is not likely that the size dependence of male mating behaviour is caused by mate preference of females for UC males in the burrow area.