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Avoidance of drilled gastropod shells by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus at Nahant, Massachusetts
Pechenik, J.A.; Lewis, S. (2000). Avoidance of drilled gastropod shells by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus at Nahant, Massachusetts. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 253: 17-32
In: Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. Elsevier: New York. ISSN 0022-0981, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Pechenik, J.A.
  • Lewis, S.

    Most hermit crabs depend on empty gastropod shells for shelter; competition for appropriate shells is often severe. This study determined whether shells that have been drilled by naticid gastropods are suitable for occupancy by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus. Differences in the characteristics of empty shells and those occupied by hermit crabs were assessed at two adjacent field sites in Nahant, Massachusetts. Drilling damage was far more frequent in empty gastropod shells than in shells occupied by hermit crabs, suggesting that individuals of P. longicarpus avoid drilled shells. They did not appear to avoid shells with other forms of damage. Laboratory experiments confirmed that these hermit crabs preferentially chose intact shells over drilled shells, even when the intact shells offered were most suitable for crabs half the weight of those tested. Final shell choices were generally made within 1 h. The hermit crabs apparently discriminated between intact and drilled shells based on tactile cues, since crabs kept in the dark showed the same preference for intact shells. The hermit crabs strongly avoided, to nearly the same extent, artificially drilled shells, naturally drilled shells, and shells with holes artificially drilled on the opposite side of the shell from where they would normally be located. Possible selective forces causing P. longicarpus to show such strong behavioral avoidance of drilled shells include increased vulnerability of crabs in drilled shells to osmotic stress, predation, and eviction by conspecifics.

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