Sex-specific differences and the role of predation in the interaction between the hermit crab, Pagurus longicarpus, and its epibiont, Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus
The interaction between the hermit crab, Pagurus longicarpus, and the shell epibiont, Hydractinia symbiolongicarpus, varies from mutualism to parasitism based on the environmental context. We tested the hypothesis that this interaction also varies as a function of hermit crab sex. Given that recent work showed a negative effect of Hydractinia on female reproduction, we predicted a greater frequency of males in Hydractinia shells in the field and a stronger preference by males than females for shells with Hydractinia. Field collections documented a significantly greater proportion of males than females occupying shells with Hydractinia, and a significantly greater proportion of ovigerous females than non-ovigerous females in shells with Hydractinia. In laboratory shell-switching experiments, a greater proportion of males than females chose to enter shells with Hydractinia, but there was no difference in the proportions of males and females that vacated shells with Hydractinia. We examined whether the presence of Hydractinia influenced predation rates. Blue crabs fed on more than twice as many hermit crabs in shells with Hydractinia as compared to bare shells, but there was no significant difference for stone crabs. Laboratory experiments showed that the force required to crush shells was significantly greater for shells without Hydractinia. Thus, the lower occupancy and preference exhibited by females than males for shells with Hydractinia appears to result both from the decreased reproduction shown in past studies and an increase in predation risk. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Bach, CE; Hazlett, BA; Rittschof, D
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