2012 Volume 67 Issue 1 Pages 15-19
Males of the hermit crab Pagurus filholi guard females until spawning, and male-male contest often occur when guarding males encounter other males. A contest comprises two phases, initial contact and physical combat, and larger males typically win. We conducted male-male contest experiments to examine whether body sizes of both sexes of P. filholi and female receptivity affect whether and when a contest escalates to physical combat, as well as contest duration and outcome. For each experimental trial, a pair, comprising a “pairing male” and a “pairing female”, and a second male (“intruder”) were placed into a small container, and their behaviors were observed for 15 minutes. Each intruder had been guarding a female in the field but we removed this female (“removed female”) just before the trial. All pairs in the field were reconstructed each after trial to quantify female receptivity. This was done by checking each female for spawning every day. As an index of size, we measured shield length (length of calcified anterior portion of cephalothorax) of all crabs. In the trials, large size of the intruder and high receptivity of the removed female significantly shortened the time until the onset of physical combat. Intruders needed more time to take over the pairing females and were less likely to win the contests when the intruders were small, the pairing males were large, and the removed females were large. Body size and receptivity of the pairing female had no effect on the process and the outcome of male-male contest. These results suggest that a male P. filholi can assess the quality of female it is guarding and remember its assessment for at least a short period. Asymmetry between contestants in this memory store for female quality could affect the process and the outcome of male-male contests in P. filholi.
Contents of supplementary materials: Appendix 1: Explanation of movie files, Mov 1: Male-male contest, Mov 2: Cessation of male contest, Mov 3: No guarding after takeover.