Photo in the News: She-Crabs Are World's Pickiest Daters

Photo: Male fiddler crab
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August 4, 2005—Few males pass the muster of the female California fiddler crab—perhaps the world's pickiest dater. According to a new study, the lady crustaceans may size up more than a hundred suitors, and the burrows where they live, before finding Mister Right.

Catherine deRivera, a biologist at University of California at San Diego, conducted the study. "As far as I know, no other species has been observed sampling nearly as many candidates as the California fiddler crab," she said in a statement.

Female fiddlers play seriously hard to get—especially when it comes to the suitors' bachelor pads. In deRivera's study, females inspected an average of 23 burrows before choosing their mate. One bachelorette inspected 106 crab cribs.

But this picky dating behavior has its purpose. The size of a male crab's burrow helps determine when the female's larvae will hatch. So the ideal mate is the one with the ideal home.

This also explains why male fiddlers (like the one pictured here) court females the way they do—by standing in front of their burrows, waving an oversized claw to invite females to inspect their digs.

"The California fiddler crabs use a lateral wave that looks much like a human beckoning 'come here,'" deRivera said. "It also seems to serve as a 'come hither' signal."

—Blake de Pastino

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