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J Chem Ecol. 2003 Jan;29(1):55-70.

Female sex pheromone-mediated effects on behavior and consequences of male competition in the shore crab (Carcinus maenas).

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  • 1Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow, Graham Kerr Building, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, United Kingdom. lsneddon@liverpool.ac.uk


Exposure to receptive female pheromone elicits guarding behavior in shore crab males (Carcinus maenas), but little is known about the effects of sex pheromone on male competition or if the female plays an active role in mate choice. This study examined whether female pheromone enhanced agonistic behavior between males and what effects visual and chemical cues had on the rules and costs of such contests. We also investigated whether females exhibit a preference for males in terms of size. Under laboratory conditions, solitary male shore crabs engaged males who already had possession of a female. The visual and chemical presence of a receptive female had an impact on contest rules and costs. Fights were costly in terms of duration and of sustaining injury with either one or both crabs incurring injury in 40% of fights. To investigate the metabolic consequences of fighting over a perceived sexual resource (chemical cue only), fights were staged between pairs of size-matched males in the presence of water containing the female sex pheromone, water in which males had been kept, and untreated seawater. The duration and intensity of contests were greater when staged in the presence of the female pheromone compared with the two other treatments. Crabs that fought in the presence of female sex pheromone also had a greater accumulation of L-lactate and a reduction of glycogen stores. Fights were less costly in terms of injury with a single chemical cue compared with enhanced costs with a multiple sexual cue. The importance of female choice was determined by presenting postmolt females with different sized males. Males were kept in a fixed position, and the majority of females approached and performed courtship behavior to the largest males, demonstrating that females may be selective in terms of size.

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