Do animals think and feel? by Marc Bekoff
Crafty Crayfish? Size
Doesn't Matter, or Does It?
Are crayfish capable of deception? We really
April 20, 2012 by
As I've written many times, on-going research continually shows us just
how fascinating other animals are. While
in a wide array of animals (see
assassin bugs, and
other unlikely candidates, we may now be able to add crayfish to the
deception club. It turns out that
differences in the size of crayfish claws are not related to strength
but it still remains to be seen if this asymmetry is really related to
fighting strategies that might include bluff and deceit
despite what the headline of this article reports. The enticing headline
reads "Size doesn't matter for crayfish's one-two crunch".
So, does size matter? To quote from this essay, "During a clash, a male
crayfish sizes up his opponent when deciding whether to fight or flee.
Previously, scientists found that stronger, smaller-clawed crayfish would
back down from weaker, larger-clawed opponents. So, it was clear that some
bluffing occurred between these crustaceans." However, this observation in
and of itself does not show that "some bluffing occurred" but it does
suggest that this might be the case.
Another quote also goes beyond
what we know, at least as far as what I could find in published research
reports, but the qualifying words could and suggest keep the door open that
bluffing does occur. "This deceptiveness could (my emphasis) help crayfish
bluff or trick an opponent during a fight, says study coauthor Robbie
Wilson, a biologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
What's more, the findings suggest (my emphasis) that within a species,
'dishonesty occurs in nature more commonly than we expect,' Wilson says."
I only point out the inconsistencies between what is known and the
headline because we really don't know whether size does or doesn't matter
for members of this species. Indeed, I had a few inquiries about this and
then saw the essay when I received my copy of the magazine.
concluding paragraph is much more in line with what we know and shows
clearly that the enticing headline might indeed be a bluff, but it worked
for me as did the headline in the shorter essay published in the magazine,
"Deception aids crayfish fighters". The last paragraph reads, "If (my
emphasis) these crustaceans are deliberately taking advantage of dishonest
signals, like using large, weaker claws to pick a fight, it could (my
emphasis) tell scientists a lot about how dishonesty develops in nature,
says Sophie Mowles, a biologist at the University of Nottingham in England.
This work 'could (my emphasis) kind of give us a window into dishonesty and
the evolution of bluff and cheating,' Mowles says. Let's hope that future
research shows us just what is going on when crayfish encounter one another.
The teaser image can be found