Weapon size is a reliable indicator of strength and social dominance in female slender crayfish (Cherax dispar)

C. L. Bywater, M. J. Angilletta, R. S. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


1. Weapons are specialized structures that are commonly used by animals to signal fighting ability and resource holding potential during agonistic encounters. Current theory predicts weapon size should reliably indicate weapon strength and unreliable signals should only occur at very low frequencies in nature. However, a recent study found weapon size was an unreliable signal of strength during agonistic interactions among males of the slender crayfish (Cherax dispar). 2. In this study, we investigated the relationship between morphology, performance and social dominance in females of C. dispar. Based on current theory, we predicted chela size would reliably indicate chela strength and would relate indirectly to dominance via its influence on strength. 3. We found females that possessed large chelae were more likely to possess stronger chelae, and those individuals with stronger chelae were more likely to win competitive bouts. The best predictive model of the relationships among morphology, performance and dominance indicated chela size indirectly affected social dominance via its influence on strength, thus demonstrating displays of weaponry are reliable signals of fighting ability. 4. Reliable signals of strength among females of C. dispar supports current theory predicting stable signalling systems should largely consist of honest displays of strength. However, this contrasts with previous work demonstrating that male C. dispar routinely uses unreliable signals of weapon strength during agonistic encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-316
Number of pages6
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Dishonesty
  • Honest signals
  • Performance
  • Signalling
  • Weapons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Weapon size is a reliable indicator of strength and social dominance in female slender crayfish (Cherax dispar)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this