Testing function of fiddler crab claw waving by manipulating social context

by D. S. Pope
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology ()


Many territorial advertisement signals are thought to be dual-function signals, directed to both rival male and receptive female conspecifics. However, few studies have tested this assumption by examining whether in fact both sexes are likely to elicit signaling behavior from territorial males. In this study, I experimentally manipulated the social context of male sand fiddler crabs (Uca pugilator) to investigate the effect of different audiences on the performance of the claw-waving display, a territorial signal that is often presumed to be directed to both males and females. To test whether males perform this signal to both audiences, I measured the frequency of waving behavior by focal males when housed in field enclosures alone, with only males, with only females, or with both males and females. Focal males waved at a low frequency when alone, and the presence of males had no effect on their level of waving. However, in the presence of females, focal males showed a significantly higher level of waving, whether or not males were also present. In addition, there was no association between fighting and waving behavior. This experiment provides evidence that from the perspective of the signaling male, the claw-waving display of U. Pugilator is not a dual-function signal but rather is primarily directed to receptive females.

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