Hermit crabs are unique among crustaceans in that they choose their shell and can, therefore, be used to investigate apparent preferences for the presence of epizoic fauna. These may be beneficial due to increased protection from predators via enhanced crypsis but may also make the shell more difficult to carry. The effects of encrusting fauna on the physical properties of empty gastropod shells, the shell preferences of hermit crabs and the physiological costs of shell carrying were examined in the present laboratory study. Heavily encrusted shells weighed more than shells of the same internal volume that were free of epizoic fauna, hermit crabs showed a clear preference for un-encrusted shells and those that occupied encrusted shells had elevated haemolymph lactate in comparison to those supplied with un-encrusted shells. Under laboratory conditions, any benefit from increased crypsis is, therefore, outbalanced by the increased costs of carrying encrusted shells.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Bertness MD (1981) The influence of shell type on hermit crab growth rate and clutch size (Decopoda, Anomura). Crustaceana 40:197–205
Briffa M, Elwood RW, Dick JTA (1998) Analysis of repeated signals during shell fights in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus. Proc R Soc Lond B 265:1467–1474
Briffa M, Elwood RW (2001) Decision rules, energy metabolism and vigor of hermit crab fights. Proc R Soc Lond B 268:1841–1848
Briffa M, Elwood RW (2002) Power of shell-rapping signals influences physiological costs and subsequent decisions during hermit crab fights. Proc R Soc Lond B 269:2331–2336
Briffa M, Elwood RW (2004) Use of energy reserves in fighting hermit crabs. Proc R Soc Lond B 271:373–379
Dill LM, Fraser AHG (1984) Risk of predation and the feeding behaviour of juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Behav Ecol Sociobiol, 16:65–71
Elwood RW, Neil SJ (1992) Assessments and decisions: a study of information gathering by hermit crabs. Chapman & Hall, London
Gherardi F (1990) Competition and coexistence in two Mediterranean hermit crabs Calcinus ornatus (Roux) and Calcinus erythropus (Latreille) (Decapoda, Anomura). J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 143:221–238
Gutmann I, Wahlefeld AW (1974) l-(+)-Lactate determination with lactate dehydrogenase and NAD+. In: Bergemeyer HU (ed) Methods of enzymatic analysis, 2nd edn. Academic Press, New York, pp 1464–1468
Hazlett BA, Rittschof D, Bach CE (in press) The effects of shell size and coil orientation in female hermit crabs, Clibanarius vittatus. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol
Herreid CF, Full RJ (1986) Energetics of hermit crabs during locomotion: the cost of carrying a shell. J Exp Biol 120:297–308
Kuhlmann ML (1992) Behavioral avoidance of predation in an intertidal hermit-crab. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 157:143–158
Markham JC (1968) Notes on growth-patterns and shell-utilization of the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus (L.). Ophelia 5:189–205
Neil SJ, Elwood RWE (1985) Behavioural modifications during egg brooding in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus L. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 94:99–114
Osorno JL, Fernandez-Casillas L, Rodriguez-Jaurez C (1998) Are hermit crabs looking for large and light shells? Evidence from natural and field induced shell exchanges. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 222:163–173
Osorno JL, Contreras-Garduno J, Marcias-Garcia C (in press) Long-term costs of using heavy shells in a terrestrial hermit crabs and limits of shell preference: an experimental study. J Zool
Partridge BL (1980) Background camouflage: an additional parameter in hermit crab shell selection and subsequent behaviour. Bull Mar Sci 30:914–916
Reiss H, Knauper S, Kroncke I (2003) Invertebrate associations with gastropod shells inhabited by Pagurus bernhardus (Paguridae) – secondary hard substrate increasing biodiversity in North Sea soft-bottom communities. Sarsia 88:404–414
Ross DM, (1971) Protection of hermit crabs (Dardanus spp.) from octopus by commensal sea anemones (Calliactis spp.). Nature 230:401–402
Statchowitsch M (1980) The epibiotic and endolithic species associated with the gastropd shells inhabited by hermit crabs Paguristes oculatus and Pagurus cuanensis. PSZNI Mar Ecol 1:73–101
Turra A (2003) Shell condition and adequacy of three sympatric intertidal hermit crab populations. J Nat Hist 47:1781–1795
Vance RR (1972) The role of shell adequacy in behavioural interactions involving hermit crabs. Ecology 53:1075–1083
Woods CMC, Page MJ (1999) Sponge masking and related preferences in the spider crab Thacanophrys filholi (Brachyura: Majidae). Mar Freshwater Res 52:135–143
We are grateful to three anonymous referees for their comments on the manuscript and to Jon Russ for his comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This work was funded by the UK BBSRC
Communicated by P. Backwell
About this article
Cite this article
Briffa, M., Elwood, R.W. Metabolic consequences of shell choice in Pagurus bernhardus: do hermit crabs prefer cryptic or portable shells?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 59, 143–148 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-005-0020-0
- Hermit Crab
- Internal Volume
- Lactic Acid Concentration
- Shell Type
- Food Odour