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J Exp Biol. 2007 Feb;210(Pt 3):447-53.

Spectral sensitivity of four species of fiddler crabs (Uca pugnax, Uca pugilator, Uca vomeris and Uca tangeri) measured by in situ microspectrophotometry.

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Unidade de Investigação em Eco-Etologia, ISPA, Rua Jardim do Tabaco, 34, 1149-041 Lisboa, Portugal.


Fiddler crabs have compound eyes that are structurally fairly well understood. However, there has been much debate regarding their spectral sensitivity and capacity to enable colour discrimination. We examined the visual pigments of two North-American species (Uca pugnax and U. pugilator), one species from the Indo-West Pacific (U. vomeris) and the only Eastern-Atlantic species (U. tangeri) of fiddler crabs using in situ microspectrophotometry of frozen sections of dark-adapted eyes. Only one spectral class of visual receptor was found in the larger (R1-7) retinular cells of each species, with maximum absorption peaking between 508 nm and 530 nm (depending upon species). The R8 retinular cell, that might contain a short-wavelength sensitive photopigment and provide a basis for colour vision, was too small to analyze by these methods. Rhabdoms were lined with screening pigment which strongly influenced each species' spectral sensitivity, sharpening the peak and shifting the maximum towards longer wavelengths, on occasion to as far as the 600 nm region. We hypothesize that sensitivity to longer wavelengths enhances contrast between background (blue sky or tall vegetation) and the male major claw during the waving display.

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