Evidence of predictive selective attention in fiddler crabs during escape in the natural environment

Zahra Bagheri, Callum Donohue, Jan Hemmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Selective attention is of fundamental relevance to animals for performing a diversity of tasks such as mating, feeding, predation and avoiding predators. Within natural environments, prey animals are often exposed to multiple, simultaneous threats, which significantly complicates the decision-making process. However, selective attention is rarely studied in complex, natural environments or in the context of escape responses. We therefore asked how relatively simple animals integrate the information from multiple, concurrent threatening events. Do they identify and respond only to what they perceive as the most dangerous threat, or do they respond to multiple stimuli at the same time? Do simultaneous threats evoke an earlier or stronger response than single threats? We investigated these questions by conducting field experiments and compared escape responses of the fiddler crab Gelasimus dampieri when faced with either a single or two simultaneously approaching dummy predators. We used the dummies' approach trajectories to manipulate the threat level; a directly approaching dummy indicated higher risk while a tangentially approaching dummy that passed the crabs at a distance represented a lower risk. The crabs responded later, but on average more often, when approached more directly. However, when confronted with the two dummies simultaneously, the crabs responded as if approached only by the directly approaching dummy. This suggests that the crabs are able to predict how close the dummy's trajectory is to a collision course and selectively suppress their normally earlier response to the less dangerous dummy. We thus provide evidence of predictive selective attention within a natural environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb234963
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence of predictive selective attention in fiddler crabs during escape in the natural environment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this