Fiddler crabs do unique mating dance in unison

fiddler crab
A fiddler crab in Australia. Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Male fiddler crabs attempting to attract female fiddler crabs perform a unique and synchronized mating dance by waving their over-sized claw, as if to say, “Come over here.”

But Australian National University researchers, led by Andrew Kahn, found that the fiddler crabs that dance to their own beat are more successful in attracting females, according to the NewScientist.

So fiddler crabs are probably not waving in unison on purpose, but they end up doing so while trying to be different. NewScientist posted video Thursday of several fiddler crabs in the act of the synchronized waving:

The NewScientist explained more about the unique mating dance:

To find what’s behind the choreographed dancing, Kahn and his team used a bamboo rod to snare female banana fiddler crabs in a North Australian mangrove swamp. They then put them in an arena full of robotic claws to see how often female scuttled towards particular robo-pincers.

Crabs that begin their wave before or in counter rhythm to the rest of the pack seem up to twice as likely to get the girl, while those making a move after the group are often overlooked. This suggests that females like a wave that is not cluttered by previous movement, says team member Luke Holman, so males will be trying to give them exactly that.

Fiddler crab
Fiddler crabs wave in unison in a unique mating dance, though the male dancing to a different beat gets the girl. Photo is a screen grab from the video

As NewScientist points out, if every crab mimics a lone maverick, they end up choosing the same movement and “with up to 100 crabs in a square meter they end up joining a dance troupe instead of being a solo act.”

“It’s a really chaotic environment they live in and maybe they are just trying to follow a few basic rules that end up backfiring,” researcher Luke Holman told the NewScientist. “In a world where everyone is trying to be different, they all end up being exactly the same.”

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