Crab shell-crushing predation and gastropod architectural defense

Journal Article

The shell-breaking behavior of the crabs Ozius verreauxii Saussure 1853 and Eriphia squamata, Stimpson 1859 from the Bay of Panama is described. The master claws of both these crabs are well designed for breaking shells. Small shells, relative to the size of a crab predator, are crushed by progressively breaking off larger segments of a shell's apex, while larger shells are peeled by inserting a large dactyl molar into the aperture of a shell and progressively chipping away the lip of the shell. Heavy gastropod shells are shown to be less vulnerable to crab predators than lighter shells, and narrow shell apertures and axial shell sculpture are demonstrated to be architectural features that deter crab predation. The incidence of architectural features which deter crab predation appears to be higher for smaller gastropod species than for larger gastropods which are too large for most crab predators. Large fish predators prey upon both gastropods and shell-crushing crabs. To avoid fish predators, both these prey groups seek refuge under rocks when covered by the tide. Fish predation thus appears to enforce a close sympatry between smaller gastropods and their crab predators. © 1981.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bertness, MD; Cunningham, C

Published Date

  • 1981

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 50 / 2-3

Start / End Page

  • 213 - 230

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-0981

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0022-0981(81)90051-4