Marine Biology

, Volume 157, Issue 10, pp 2129–2142 | Cite as

Utilization of partially predated snail shells by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus Say, 1817

  • Beth M. McGuire
  • Jason D. WilliamsEmail author
Original Paper


The hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus was shown to inhabit shells that were partially predated from intertidal areas of Long Island, New York. Among field collections of P. longicarpus, 2.13% of the hermit crabs (46 of 2155) were found with shells with snail tissue present. Over 90% of these partially predated snail shells were occupied by male hermit crabs. Although hermit crabs were in 8 species of snail shells, only Littorina littorea and Nassarius obsoletus were found occupied by hermit crabs and containing snail tissue. In the laboratory, we found that specimens of the spider crab Libinia emarginata were able to pull off the operculum of snails, leaving damage as found in field collections. In contrast, specimens of P. longicarpus were not able to prey on live, healthy snails. When specimens of P. longicarpus were placed in communal tanks, hermit crabs preferred partially predated snail shells to empty and original shells. However, original shells and empty shells were occupied with more frequency than partially predated shells when crabs were isolated. These findings indicate P. longicarpus actively seeks shells soon after attack and abandonment by snail predators, especially in the presence of competitors.


Hermit Crab Empty Shell Spider Crab Snail Shell Gastropod Shell 
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.



We thank Drs. Julie Heath (Boise State University), Russell Burke (Hofstra University) and three anonymous reviewers for their comments that greatly improved this manuscript. Dr. John J. McDermott (Franklin and Marshall College) kindly provided personal data and gave helpful comments on a previous draft of this work. Dr. Alison Carson (Manhattanville College) provided helpful advice on statistics. The financial support of Hofstra University to the authors is greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyHofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA

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