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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT Fiddler crabs have been divided into species that mate and breed in burrows that males court from and defend (e.g., Uca pugilator), and species in which crabs pair on the surface and females breed in their own burrows (e.g., Uca vocans). I studied the reproductive behavior of the fidder crab Uca beebei at a site on the Pacific coast of Panama and found that this species exhibits both of these major modes of mating and breeding. Some females mated on the surface near burrows which they defended and used for oviposition and incubation. This may occur when females are large enough to defend their burrows successfully, when their burrows are suitable breeding sites, and when food is abundant nearby. Other females left their burrows, sampled the burrows of several courting males, then chose mates and breeding sites by remaining in males' burrows. These females did not select mates on the basis of size, nor did they prefer males that built pillars by their burrows. They consistently chose males whose burrows were longer (by 8%) and deeper (by 12%) than those they rejected. Long deep burrows may provide better thermal environments for incubation than short shallow ones.


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