Cryptic asymmetry: Unreliable signals mask asymmetric performance of crayfish weapons

Michael Angilletta, Robbie S. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Animals commonly use their limbs as signals and weapons during territorial aggression. Asymmetries of limb performance that do not relate to asymmetries of limb size (cryptic asymmetry) could substantially affect disputes, but this phenomenon has not been considered beyond primates. We investigated cryptic asymmetry in male crayfish (Cherax dispar), which commonly use unreliable signals of strength during aggression. Although the strength of a chela can vary by an order of magnitude for a given size, we found repeatable asymmetries of strength that were only weakly related to asymmetries of size. Size-adjusted strength of chelae and the asymmetry of strength between chelae were highly repeatable between environmental conditions, suggesting that asymmetries of strength stemmed from variation in capacity rather than motivation. Cryptic asymmetry adds another dimension of uncertainty during conflict between animals, which could influence the evolution of unreliable signals and morphological asymmetry. This journal is

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-553
Number of pages3
JournalBiology letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 23 2012


  • Asymmetry
  • Crustaceans
  • Performance
  • Signalling
  • Weaponry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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