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Multiple Mechanisms of Resource Acquisition in Hermit Crabs: Scrums and Odor-Induced Grasping (Decapoda, Diogenidae)

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Two behavioral mechanisms shown by hermit crabs (brief grasps of shells and scrum formation) which increase their chances of obtaining new gastropod shells were examined. Individuals of Clibanarius vittatus which smell odors from the snail Littorina irrorata show brief grasps of L. irrorata shells occupied by hermit crabs but long grasps of empty shells. The brief grasp allows identification of the species of shell and whether or not it is occupied. Hermit crabs which are attracted to and closely attend a pair of crabs engaged in shell exchange behavior (scrummage formation) sometimes obtain a shell vacated by the initiating crab as it moves into the shell vacated by the non-initiating crab. These behaviors minimize the time spent by crabs on shells that are not available for easy occupation.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, U.S.A.; 2: Duke University Marine Laboratory Pivers Island, Beaufort, NC 28516, U.S.A.


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