Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Resource partitioning and interspecific competition in a tropical hermit crab community

  • 179 Accesses

  • 80 Citations


  1. 1)

    The relative intensities of inter- and intra-specific competition for a given set of resources can be estimated from data on resource partitioning if enough is known about resource population dynamics and resource movement.

  2. 2)

    There is abundant evidence that hermit crabs compete for empty gastropod shells. Different hermit crab species usually differ in their use of empty shells and habitat.

  3. 3)

    A model of empty shell population dynamics is developed to allow competition ratios to be calculated from data on resource partitioning among sympatric hermit crabs.

  4. 4)

    Ratios of inter- and intra-specific competition are estimated for the species in a tropical hermit crab community. Results indicate that interspecific competition is at least an order of magnitude less than intraspecific. Species are not close to any limiting similarity.

  5. 5)

    The fact that competition ratios in the Panamanian hermit crab community are substantially less than figures proposed by other authors for other communities may reflect the use of inappropriate methods for determining competition coefficients (competition ratios) in earlier studies.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Abele LG (1977) Comparative species c,position and relative abundance of decapod crustacenas in marine habitats of Panama. Marine Biology 38:263–278

  2. Abrams PA (1976) Niche overlap and environmental variability. Mathematical Biosciences 28:357–372

  3. Abrams PA (1977) Density independent mortality and interspecific competition; a test of Pianka's niche overlap hypothesis. American Naturalist 111:539–552

  4. Abrams PA (1980a) Some comments on measuring niche overlap. Ecology, 61:44–49

  5. Abrams PA (1980b) Consumer functional response and competition in consumerresource systems. Theoretical Population Biology 17:80–102

  6. Bach C, Hazlett B, Rittschof D (1976) Effects of interspecific competition on fitness of the hermit crab Clibanarius tricolor. Ecology 57:579–586

  7. Ball EE, Haig JH (1974) Hermit crabs from the tropical eastern Pacific. I. Distribution, color, and natural history of some shallow-water species. Bulletin Southern California Academy of Sciences 73:95–104

  8. Brown JH, Lieberman GL (1973) Resource utilization and coexistence of seed-eating desert rodents in sand dune habitats. Ecology 54:788–797

  9. Christiansen FB, Fenchel TM (1977) Theories of populations in biological communities. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg New York

  10. Cody ML (1974) Competition and the structure of bird communities. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.

  11. Conover M (1978) The importance of various shell characteristics to the shell selection behavior of hermit crabs. Journal of experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 32:131–142

  12. Drapkin EI (1963) Effect of Rapana bezear Linne on the Black Sea fauna. Doklady Akademiia nauk SSSR 151 700–703 Translation Biological Science Section, 151:964–966

  13. Fotheringham N (1976) Population consequences of shell utilization by hermit crabs. Ecology 57:570–578

  14. Grant WC, Ulmer KM (1974) Shell selection and aggressive behavior in two sympatric species of hermit crabs. Biological Bulletin 146:32–43

  15. Hazlett BA (1966) Social behavior of the Paguridae and Diogenidae of Curacao. Studies on the fauna of Curacao and other Caribbean islands 88:1–143

  16. Hazlett BA (1970) Interspecific shell fighting in three sympatric species of hermit crabs in Hawaii. Pacific Science 24:472–482

  17. Hazlett BA (1980) Shell exchanges in hermit crabs: aggression, negotiation or both? Animal Behavior in press

  18. Holling CS (1966) The functional response of invertebrate predators to prey density. Memoirs of the entomological Society of Canada 48:1–86

  19. Hurlbert SH (1978) The measurement of niche overlap and some relatives. Ecology 59:67–77

  20. Keen AM (1972) Sea shells of tropical west America. Standford: Standord University Press

  21. Kellogg CW (1971) The role of gastropod shells in determining the pattern of distribution and abundance in hermit crabs. Ph D thesis Zoology Duke University

  22. Kellogg CW (1976) Gastropod shells: a potentially limiting resource for hermit crabs. Journal of experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 22:101–111

  23. Kellogg CW (1977) Coexistence in a hermit crab species ensemble. Biological Bulletin 153:133–144

  24. Lane PA (1975) The dynamics of aquatic systems: a comparative study of the structure of 4 zooplankton communities. Ecological Monographs 45:307–336

  25. Levins R (1968) Evolution in changing environments. Princeton: Princeton University Press

  26. MacArthur RH (1968) The theory of the niche. In: Lewontin R (ed) Population biology and evolution. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, p 150–176

  27. MacArthur RH, Levins R (1967) The limiting similarity, convergence, and divergence of coexisting species. American Naturalist 101:377–385

  28. Markham JC (1968) Notes on growth-patterns and shell-utilization of the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus. Ophelia 5:189–205

  29. May RM (1975) Some notes on estimating the competition matrix alpha. Ecology 56:737–741

  30. May RM (1976) Theoretical Ecology. Philadelphia W.B. Saunders

  31. Mitchell KA (1975) An analysis of shell occupation by two sympatric species of hermit crab. I. Ecological factors Biological Bulletin 149:205–213

  32. Nyblade CF (1974) Coexistence of sympatric hermit crabs. Ph D thesis University of Washington, Seattle

  33. Orians GH, Horn H (1969) Overlap in foods and foraging of four species of blackbrids in the Potholes of central Washington. Ecology 50:930–938

  34. Orians GH, King CL (1964) Shell selection and invasion rates of some Pacific hermit crabs. Pacific Science 18:297–306

  35. Pianka ER (1974) Niche overlap and diffuse competition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 71:2141–2145

  36. Provenzano AJ (1960) Notes on Bermuda hermit crabs (Crustacea Anomura) Bulletin of Marine Science 10:117–124

  37. Pulliam HR, Enders F (1971) The feeding ecology of five sympatric finch species. Ecology 53:557–566

  38. Reese ER (1962) Shell selection behavior of hermit crabs. Animal behavior 10:347–360

  39. Reese ER (1969) Behavioral adaptations of intertidal hermit crabs. American Zoologist 9:343–355

  40. Roughgarden J (1976) Resource partitioning among competing species — A coevolutionary approach. Theoretical Population Biology 9:388–424

  41. Rutherford JC (1977) Removal of living snails from their shells by a hermit crab. Veliger 19:438–439

  42. Schoener TW (1974a) Some methods of calculating competition coefficients from resource utilization spectra. American Naturalist 108:332–340

  43. Schoener TW (1974b) Resource partitioning in ecological communities Science 185:27–39

  44. Spight TM (1977) Availability and use of shells by intertidal hermit crabs Biological Bulletin 152:120–133

  45. Thompson MT (1903) The metamorphoses of the hermit crab. Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History 13:147–209

  46. Vance RR (1972a) Competition and mechanism of coexistence in three sympatric species of intertidal hermit crabs. Ecology 53:1062–1074

  47. Vance RR (1972b) The role of shell adequacy in behavioral interactions involving hermit crabs. Ecology 53:1075–1083

  48. Yeaton RI, Cody ML (1974) Competitive release in island song sparrow populations. Theoretical Population Biology 5:42–58

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Abrams, P.A. Resource partitioning and interspecific competition in a tropical hermit crab community. Oecologia 46, 365–379 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00346266

Download citation


  • Population Dynamic
  • Relative Intensity
  • Interspecific Competition
  • Hermit Crab
  • Abundant Evidence