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Associations between gastropod shell characteristics and egg production in the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus

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Two populations (salt marsh and seagrass bed) of the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus were sampled to examine associations between shell characteristics and egg production. Multivariate statistical analyses controlled for crab size and time of year, variables that otherwise could be confounded with shell effects. Although correlations between shell characteristics and reproduction existed in both populations, generalizations could not be made because associations varied within and between populations. Shell species was not associated with a female's reproductive state (i.e., whether or not she was barren when sampled) in either population. In the seagrass population, medium-large and large females occupying severely damaged or fouled shells were half as likely to be reproductive as females occupying other shell conditions. However, there was no association between shell condition and reproductive state for small and small-medium females in the seagrass population or among all females in the salt marsh population. In the seagrass population, small through medium-large reproductive females occupied shells more similar to their predicted shell size, regardless of whether the occupied shell was relatively small or large, than nonreproductive females. In contrast, relative shell sizes of reproductive and nonreproductive females were similar for large females in the seagrass population and all females in the salt marsh population. Clutch sizes were enhanced for females occupying Polinices duplicatus shells or shells larger than their predicted shell size in the seagrass population. Relative shell size also was associated with clutch size in the salt marsh population, but crabs occupying shells similar to their predicted shell size had the largest clutches.

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Wilber, T.P. Associations between gastropod shell characteristics and egg production in the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus . Oecologia 81, 6–15 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00377002

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Key words

  • Hermit crabs
  • Reproduction
  • Log-linear models
  • Resource ecology