The relationship between cheliped color and body size in female Callinectes sapidus and its role in reproductive behavior



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Texas A&M University


Many species use color during courtship displays, with the more colorful individuals often selected as potential mates. Female blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, display prominent red markings on their chelipeds, which is absent in males. I tested the hypothesis that females use this sexual dimorphism as an effective signal to potential mates. Body size was positively correlated with size of the colorful pattern on the crusher dactyl. Digital imaging techniques were used to examine and quantify a pattern of coloration in the female blue crab. Morphometric measurements were made using digital images of the carapace and chelae of crabs collected along the Gulf of Mexico coast in Galveston, Texas. Color complexity was examined on digital images of the chelae using Adobe? Photoshop? and Image J. Specific wavelengths were selected and their presence within the attribute quantified and evaluated. To determine whether male blue crabs prefer more colorful females, males were given a choice between females of different female coloration. Males displayed more often and directed more courtship displays towards the more colorful females. I hypothesize that male blue crabs use cheliped coloration as a visual cue for mate selection.