Does male reproductive effort increase with age? Courtship in fiddler crabs

Catherine L. Hayes, Isobel Booksmythe, Michael D. Jennions, Patricia R.Y. Backwell

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Theory suggests that reproductive effort generally increases with age, but life-history models indicate that other outcomes are possible. Empirical data are needed to quantify variation in actual age-dependence. Data are readily attainable for females (e.g. clutch per egg size), but not for males (e.g. courtship effort). To quantify male effort one must: (i) experimentally control for potential age-dependent changes in female presence; and, crucially, (ii) distinguish between the likelihood of courtship being initiated, the display rate, and the total time invested in courting before stopping ('courtship persistence'). We provide a simple experimental protocol, suitable for many taxa, to illustrate how to obtain this information. We studied courtship waving by male fiddler crabs, Uca annulipes. Given indeterminate growth, body size is correlated with age. Larger males were more likely to wave at females and waved more persistently. They did not, however, have a higher courtship rate (waves per second). A known female preference for males with higher display rates explains why, once waving is initiated, all males display at the same rate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20121078
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Age
  • Courtship
  • Fiddler crabs
  • Sexual display
  • Uca annulipes

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