Tricarico, Elena and Bertocchi, Silvia and Brusconi, Sara and Chessa, Lorenzo Antonio and Gherardi, Francesca (2009) Shell recruitment in the Mediterranean hermit crab Clibanarius erythropus. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, Vol. 381 (1), p. 42-46. ISSN 0022-0981. Article.
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Gastropod shells are vital for the majority of hermit crab species, being essential for their survival, growth, protection, and reproduction. Given their importance, shells are acquired and transferred between crabs through several modalities. We conducted observations and experiments at the Asinara Island (Sardinia, Italy) to investigate the efficacy of the different behavioral tactics adopted by the hermit crab Clibanarius erythropus to acquire shells, such as: (1) locomotion and activity at different tidal phases; (2) attendance at shell-supplying sites (simulated predation sites with five different odors: live and dead gastropods, live and dead crabs, predator); and (3) interactions with conspecifics in aggregations on simulated gastropod predation sites. In each tidal phase, locomotion was slow (0.7 cm min− 1) and, as a consequence, the probability of encountering empty shells and conspecifics was low. Simulated gastropod predation sites quickly attracted a larger number of hermit crabs than the other sites tested. Aggregations seemed to function as shell exchange markets, as previously suggested for other species: the first attendant took the experimental shell and a chain of shell exchanges among conspecifics followed. Our results show that, in C. erythropus, aggregation is the most efficient tactic for the acquisition of new shells, whereas in other species, such as Pagurus longicarpus, it is associated with exploitation ability due to the intense locomotion. The interspecific plasticity in hermit crabs' behavior is confirmed.
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