Wednesday, February 9, 2011
February 9, 2011 : Fiddler Crab
A fiddler crab, sometimes known as a calling crab, may be any of approximately 94 species of semi-terrestrial marine crabs which make up the genus Uca. As members of the family Ocypodidae, fiddler crabs are most closely related to the ghost crabs of the genus Ocypode. This entire group is composed of small crabs – the largest being slightly over two inches across. Fiddler crabs are found along sea beaches and brackish inter-tidal mud flats, lagoons and swamps.
Like all crabs, fiddler crabs shed their shells as they grow. If they have lost legs or claws during their present growth cycle a new one will be present when they molt. If the large fiddle claw is lost, males will develop one on the opposite side after their next molt. Newly molted crabs are very vulnerable because of their soft shells. They are reclusive and hide until the new shell hardens.
Fiddler crabs communicate by a sequence of waves and gestures; males have an oversized claw or cheliped; used in clashes of ritualised combat of courtship over a female and signal their intentions between conspecifics. The movement of the smaller claw from ground to mouth during feeding underlines the crabs' common name; it seems that animal plays the larger claw somewhat like a fiddle.
Fiddler crabs live rather brief lives of no more than two years (up to three years in captivity). During courtship, the males wave their oversized claws high in the air and tap them on the ground in an effort to attract females. Fights between males will also occur, which are presumably meant to impress the females; if a male loses his larger claw, the smaller one will begin to grow larger and the lost claw will regenerate into a new (small) claw. For at least some species of fiddler crabs, however, the small claw remains small, while the larger claw regenerates over a period of several molts, being about half its former size after the first molt. The female fiddler carries her eggs in a mass on the underside of her body. She remains in her burrow during a two week gestation period, after which she ventures out to release her eggs into the receding tide. The larvae remain planktonic for a further two weeks.