Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 5, pp 1133–1142 | Cite as

Richness, abundance and shell use of subarctic and arctic hermit crabs

  • David K. A. BarnesEmail author
  • Piotr Kukliński
  • Maria Wlodarska-Kowalczuk
Research Article


Hermit crabs are an obvious, common and abundant feature of global shallow water environments but almost nothing is known of their ecology at their extreme latitudinal ranges, the Arctic and southern South America. In this study, we report the first investigation on hermit crabs and their use of a key resource, gastropod shells, in a subpolar and a polar environment—amongst the most rapidly changing places on earth. Hypothesised low levels of richness were confirmed by surveys—only Pagurus pubescens was found in western Spitsbergen and only three pagurids were found in northern Norway. At the northern-most of their extent, hermit crabs were fairly common but Arctic abundances (1–5 m−2) were an order of magnitude lower than in many warm temperate or tropical localities. Along the open coast of Spitsbergen, the occurrence of P. pubescens was infrequent and very patchy, but it was more abundant in the fjords. In Isfjorden, the largest studied fjord, the population of P. pubescens was mainly represented by small individuals. Spitsbergen P. pubescens used few shell types and >87% just occurred in Margarites or Buccinum shells. The proportion of the gastropod shells, used by P. pubescens, which were damaged, was high and increased with shell size. These hermit crabs are at the edge of the range for both their species and Anomura. The extremes of their location are reflected by: They probably represent the least rich assemblage, with the lowest and most patchy typical abundances reported to date and are amongst the smallest individuals using the least diverse and most damaged gastropod shells.


Hermit Crab Shell Type Empty Shell Gastropod Shell Svalbard Archipelago 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Our thanks are due to Dr Marek Zajaczkowski (IO PAS) and Marcin Zajaczkowski for help with logistics. The authors are grateful to Karen Webb for aid in collection of data at Bellsund, Hornsund and Sorkapp. The study has been completed with the help of the Marie Curie Fellowship provided to PK from the European Commission. We thank Prof. Lloyd Peck for comments on an early draft of the manuscript and declare that the experiments we performed complied with the current laws of Spitsbergen. Finally, we would like to thank Dr Sven Thatje and an anonymous referee for comments leading to a much-improved manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • David K. A. Barnes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Piotr Kukliński
    • 2
    • 3
  • Maria Wlodarska-Kowalczuk
    • 2
  1. 1.British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research CouncilCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Marine Ecology Department Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of SciencesSopotPoland
  3. 3.Natural History MuseumLondonUK

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