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Hermit crab population ecology on a shallow coral reef (Bailey’s Cay, Roatan, Honduras): octopus predation and hermit crab shell use
Gilchrist, S.L. (2003). Hermit crab population ecology on a shallow coral reef (Bailey’s Cay, Roatan, Honduras): octopus predation and hermit crab shell use. Mem. Mus. Vic. 60(1): 35-44
In: Memoirs of the Museum of Victoria. Museum of Victoria: Melbourne. ISSN 0814-1827, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

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  • Gilchrist, S.L.

Abstract
    Shells can be a limiting factor in allowing hermit crab populations to increase. Predators of gastropod molluscs and of hermit crabs release shells into reef environments where hermit crabs find and cycle them within their populations. Predators also play a role in distributing shells among hermit crab species. To highlight how octopuses influence shell availability to hermit crabs, observations were made on members of Octopus vulgaris Cuvier, 1797 and O. briareus Robson, 1929 at Bailey’s Cay Reef (Roatan, Honduras) during July and August each of three years, 1999-2001. In addition to feeding while foraging, Octopus vulgaris and O. briareus individuals create shell and debris middens outside of their temporary dens. These middens concentrate shells and food for hermit crabs in the reef environment where locating an empty shell could be difficult. However, because hermit crabs are prey items for octopuses, hermit crabs using the middens risk predation from the den occupant. Relatively small hermit crab species such as Pagurus brevidactylus (Stimpson, 1858) and P. criniticornis (Dana, 1852) were found commonly in dens and among middens, opening the possibility that the den functions as a refugium for some species as well.

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