Chemical mediation of behavior in hermit crabs: Alarm and aggregation cues.
Field studies with three common local species of hermit crabs,Clibanarius vittatus, Pagurus longicarpus, andPagurus pollicaris, showed that these crabs responded behaviorally to chemicals originating from crushed conspecifics. Hermit crabs are attracted specifically and in a manner similar to previously reported crab responses to odors from dead gastropods. Responses byC. vittatus to both kinds of odor are of three types: (1) aggregation/shell investigation responses (previously reported for odors from dead gastropods), characterized by increased locomotor activity, investigation of shells in the vicinity, and switching into empty shells; (2) alarm responses, in which crabs flee the area; and (3) withdrawal responses, in which crabs pull into their shells and do not come out. Studies withC. vittatus showed that the stimulatory chemicals originate from hemolymph, are less than 500 D, adsorb to octadecyl silica, and are recovered by elution with 20% methanol. Responses ofC. vittatus are dependent upon crab size, type of shell occupied, and shell fit. Chemicals originating from dead conspecifics provide a forum for shell acquisition by crabs in relatively small shells and alarm by crabs in relatively large shells.
Rittschof, D; Tsai, DW; Massey, PG; Blanco, L; Kueber, GL; Haas, RJ
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