Original Papers


, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 429-445

First online:

Resource partitioning and competition for shells in a subtidal hermit crab species assemblage

  • Peter AbramsAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Behavioral Biology, University of Minnesota
  • , Carl NybladeAffiliated withFriday Harbor Laboratories
  • , Sallie SheldonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Middlebury College

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Shell and habitat utilization are quantified for 12 hermit crab species occurring subtidally in the San Juan Archipelago, Washington. The mechanism of competition for shells between these species is investigated using laboratory experiments to determine shell preferences, shell acquisition rates, and rates of exchange of shells via shell fighting. This information is used to estimate relative intensities of inter- and intra-specific competition for shells between the species in this assemblage. In contrast to earlier findings on intertidal hermit crab assemblages, a significant number (5) of the species in this assemblage appear to experience a greater reduction in their shell supply due to members of other species than due to other members of their own species. The relative amounts of inter- and intra-specific competition differ greatly for different species in the community. The high average figures for interspecific/intraspecific competition are largely a result of the presence of three abundant and very generalized species. In spite of the large number of species and relatively high ratios of interspecific to intraspecific competition, the species in this group are not close to a limiting similarity in resource use. There is suggestive evidence that greater selection pressures for divergence in habitat use may have resulted in the lower amounts of overlap observed in intertidal hermit crab assemblages in previous studies.