Female choice over short and long distances: neighbour effects
Fiddler crabs live at high densities and mate-searching females encounter many males at varying distances. Who is the ideal neighbour for a male? There could be a trade-off if having neighbours that invest more in sexual signals increases the rate at which females initially move towards a focal male, but thereafter decrease the likelihood that he is chosen rather than his neighbour. We used robotic crabs to test whether female choice for focal males (identical claw size/courtship wave rate) varied depending on the relative investment in sexual signals of their two neighbours and the distance at which she first saw the males. The neighbours’ phenotype did not affect which of two focal males she initially approached from long-range (50 cm). When a female initially saw a trio of males at a close-range (20 cm), she preferentially chose the focal male over neighbours that invested less in sexual signals (smaller claw/slower wave rate), but did not show a preference for the focal male over neighbours that invested more in sexual signals (larger claw/faster wave rate). However, a female that started to approach a focal male with neighbours that invest more in sexual signals from 50 cm was significantly less likely to choose the focal male than when she first saw the trio at 20 cm. Our results suggest that the initial distance at which males are seen partly determines how neighbours’ sexual signals affect male mating success. In general, if larger males can retain smaller neighbours they might therefore increase their mating success.