Consequences of shell-species preferences for female reproductive success in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus
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Littoral hermit crabs, Pagurus bernhardus, show a strong preference for Littorina obtusata shells rather than those of Gibbula species. The fitness consequences, in terms of fecundity, for this shell preference is examined for female crabs. Females in the preferred species produced eggs earlier in the season, produced more eggs in the first brood, and produced a second brood more often than did females in the less preferred species. The smaller brood for Gibbula spp. was not a consequence of egg loss from the pleopods due to an unfavourable shape of shell, but rather reflected lower egg production. It is not clear, however, if this differential reproduction is due to direct costs of carrying an unfavourable shell, i.e. the shell impedes reproduction, or whether crabs compete aggressively for favoured shells so that only crabs of low quality inhabit lowquality shells.
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