Backwell Group - Behavioural ecology of fiddler crabs

Backwell lab members

We study the behaviour of fiddler crabs in their natural environment (tropical mangrove forests) in Darwin. In the past five years, we have also worked in Mozambique, Zanzibar and Central America. We work on the social behaviour of about 10 species of fiddlers, looking at their mating systems, deceptive signalling, fighting behaviour and co-operative behaviour. We are also looking at the effects of climate change on the behaviour of fiddlers.



Patricia Backwell

Pat Backwell
I received my formal education in South Africa. During my graduate years I worked on the breeding behaviour of several species...

PhD Student

Technical Assistant


Open to students


Selected publications

  • Booksmythe, Isobel; Backwell, Patricia R. Y.; Jennions, Michael D,. Competitor size, male mating success and mate choice in eastern mosquitofish, Gambusia holbrooki Animal Behaviour 85 (2) 371-375 Published: FEB 2013
  • Bolton, Jessica; Backwell, Patricia R. Y.; Jennions, Michael D,. Density dependence and fighting in species with indeterminate growth: a test in a fiddler crab Animal Behaviour 85 (6) 1367-1376 Published: JUN 2013
  • Hayes, Catherine L.; Booksmythe, Isobel; Jennions, Michael D.; et al., Does male reproductive effort increase with age? Courtship in fiddler crabs Biology Letters 9 (2 Published: APR 23 2013
  • Callander, Sophia; Hayes, Catherine L.; Jennions, Michael D.; et al., Experimental evidence that immediate neighbors affect male attractiveness Behavioral Ecology 24 (3) 730-733 Published: MAY-JUN 2013
  • Johnson, Laura; Mantle, Beth L.; Gardner, Janet L.; et al, Morphometric measurements of dragonfly wings: the accuracy of pinned, scanned and detached measurement methods Zookeys (276) 77-84 Published: 2013
  • Kahn, Andrew T.; Dolstra, Tegan; Jennions, Michael D.; et al,. Strategic male courtship effort varies in concert with adaptive shifts in female mating preferences Behavioral Ecology 24 (4) 906-913 Published: JUL-AUG 2013
  • Callander, Sophia; Kahn, Andrew T.; Hunt, John; et al., The effect of competitors on calling effort and life span in male field crickets Behavioral Ecology 24 (5) 1251-1259 Published: SEP-OCT 2013
  • Callander, Sophia; Kahn, Andrew T.; Maricic, Tim; et al., Weapons or mating signals? Claw shape and mate choice in a fiddler crabBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67 (7) 1163-1167 Published: JUL 2013
  • Callander, Sophia; Bolton, Jessica; Jennions, Michael D.; et al,. A farewell to arms: males with regenerated claws fight harder over resources Animal Behaviour 84 (3) 619-622 Published: SEP 2012
  • Callander, Sophia; Backwell, Patricia R. Y.; Jennions, Michael D. Context-dependent male mate choice: the effects of competitor presence and competitor size Behavioral Ecology 23 (2) 355-360 Published: MAR-APR 2012.

All publications

News & events


Crabs that invade smaller crab species’ habitat overpower and evict incumbents from their burrows, but the two species ultimately co-exist and join forces against other invading crabs
Catherine Young submitted her thesis “The Causes and Consequences of Group Living in the Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton)”
New research has resolved a mystery over why female fiddler crabs visit and leave many males during mating season, and found the females aren’t just being picky.
Daniela Perez, Damien Esquerre, Dominique Potvin, and four other scientists had their research featured in the 'Science Meets Street Art 2016' event.


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