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Pain experience in hermit crabs?
Elwood, R.W.; Appel, M. (2009). Pain experience in hermit crabs? Anim. Behav. 77(5): 1243-1246.
In: Animal Behaviour. Academic Press: London,. ISSN 0003-3472, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Pagurus bernhardus (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Marine
Author keywords
    hermit crab; memory; motivation; nociception; Pagurus bernhardus; pain; trade-off

Authors  Top 
  • Elwood, R.W.
  • Appel, M.

    Pain may be inferred when the responses to a noxious stimulus are not reflexive but are traded off against other motivational requirements, the experience is remembered and the situation is avoided in the future. To investigate whether decapods feel pain we gave hermit crabs, Pagurus bernhardus, small electric shocks within their shells. Only crabs given shocks evacuated their shells indicating the aversive nature of the stimulus, but fewer crabs evacuated from a preferred species of shell indicating a motivational trade-off. Some crabs that evacuated attacked the shell in the manner seen in a shell fight. Most crabs, however, did not evacuate at the stimulus level we used, but when these were subsequently offered a new shell, shocked crabs were more likely to approach and enter the new shell. Furthermore, they approached that shell more quickly, investigated it for a shorter time and used fewer cheliped probes within the aperture prior to moving in. Thus the experience of the shock altered future behaviour in a manner consistent with a marked shift in motivation to get a new shell to replace the one occupied. The results are consistent with the idea of pain in these animals.

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