The male blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, uses both chromatic and achromatic cues during mate choice.
ABSTRACT In the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, claw color varies by sex, sexual maturity and individual. Males rely in part on color cues to select appropriate mates, and these chromatic cues may be perceived through an opponent interaction between two photoreceptors with maximum wavelength sensitivities at 440 and 508 nm. The range of color discrimination of this dichromatic visual system may be limited, however, and it is unclear whether male blue crabs are capable of discriminating the natural variations in claw color that may be important in mate choice. By testing males' innate color preferences in binary choice tests between photographs of red-clawed females and six variations of orange-clawed females, we examined both the chromatic (opponent interaction) and achromatic (relative luminance) cues used in male mate choice. Males significantly preferred red-clawed females to orange-clawed females, except when the test colors were similar in both opponency and relative luminance. Our results are unusual in that they indicate that male mate choice in the blue crab is not guided solely by achromatic or chromatic mechanisms, suggesting that both color and intensity are used to evaluate female claw color.