Reproductive Biology in Blue Crabs


Effect of female molt stage and sex ratio on courtship behavior of the blue crab

Marine Biology

 Volume 131, Issues 3. 1998. Pages 533 - 542.

Paul Jivoff 1 2 and Anson Hines 2

1 Department of Zoology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland
2 Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Maryland, USA


In many species, males and females actively participate in courtship, and the outcome of pre-mating interactions influences the mating success of both sexes. Female blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, mate soon after their final molt to maturity; thus female molt stage dictates the timing of mating. In a field experiment, we manipulated female molt stage and sex ratio to test their effects on the courtship behavior of both sexes, if female behavior influences the behavior and pairing success of males, and if male courtship influences male pairing-success. Early-molt-stage females avoided males during courtship, whereas late-molt-stage females sought out males. As a result, males had to pursue and capture early-molt-stage females whereas males displayed to late-molt-stage females and more easily physically controlled them. Males sometimes abandoned late-molt-stage females, but this occurred more often when females were abundant. The rate at which females avoided males was positively correlated with that of males abandoning females, and males that were unsuccessful at pairing met with higher rates of female resistance than successful males, suggesting that female behavior influences male pairing-success. Unlike unsuccessful males, successful males more often made the transition between display and maintaining physical control of the female. At high male sex ratios, males initiated courtship more readily; thus both sexual competition and female behavior influence male courtship in this species.