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Fiddler Crabs Are the Crustacean Jerk-Off Kings

Maybe it’s a little immature to suggest these big-clawed sea freaks are horny, overzealous masturbators, but there’s something pure about the way we’ve turned it into a delightful, always-popular meme

The fiddler crab gets its name from the way the smaller of its two claws move when it’s feeding — it looks a bit like it’s playing its larger claw like a fiddle. Isn’t that cute? Surely some clever scientist settled upon that innocent, pure name. 

What would I call this crab if it were my responsibility to name it, though? Well, the jack-off crab, obviously. Just look at the massive size difference between its two claws. It looks exactly like every joke about one arm being bigger than the other because you use it to masturbate.

Apparently, this is a common sentiment among fiddler-crab fans, who have made a plethora of memes to this effect. “Masturbation? Never, why do you ask?” one reads, with a photo highlighting the fiddler crab’s oversized claw. “How I look a week after my GF has been on a business trip,” jokes another. There’s enough of these to warrant their own tag on 9gag, where memes like these and dozens of other crab memes are distributed. 

Obviously, it’s all terribly immature. Most of these memes look like they were made by a 14-year-old boy back in 2007, and honestly, they probably were. Still, there’s something delightful about reveling in the simple concept of a crab jacking off, particularly during a time when memes are increasingly obscure and require several layers of irony to parse. Not fiddler crab memes — all you gotta do is suggest these crabs masturbate, and it works. 

In reality, the fiddler crab’s claw disparity is a means of attracting mates and fighting fellow crabs, and males have a much larger claw size discrepancy than females. According to the Smithsonian Ocean Institute, the larger claw can account for nearly half of the male crab’s weight, and is used as both a weapon and a sexual lure. To impress the ladies, the male fiddler will do a little dance with his big claw. Longer claws equal a better show, which equals a better chance of hitting it off with a female crab. They also use these big claws to fight off other male crabs when it comes time to find a burrow to mate in

Here’s where it gets somewhat complicated, though. While longer claws are flashier, lighter claws are easier to wave around and make a big show out of. Heavier claws, however, can make better weapons against other crabs. But, wait — some big claws that might seem more attractive are actually rather weak, and don’t hold up well in crab fights. All of this is to say, there’s a good deal of variance in the male-claw scene, and bigger isn’t always better. 

Of course, there’s one last crucial question to address: Do crabs masturbate? 

A recent study from York University suggests that crabs, squid and other invertebrates might feel more emotion than previously thought, particularly pain. Yet, crabs aren’t considered all that intelligent, and they likely don’t experience pleasure in the way we do. So, no, crabs probably don’t jack off, and such an occurrence has never been recorded, though fiddler crabs do have two penises.

Nevertheless, with their one massive claw, plenty of human masturbaters can continue to enjoy comparing themselves to the fiddler crab, anyway.