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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT The investigation of unoccupied gastropod shells by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus consists of the insertion of specific appendages (right cheliped, left cheliped, first right walking leg) into the shell aperture, followed by manipulation of the shell. Detailed observations revealed that the appendages were inserted in a definite sequence, and that there was significant interpopulation variation in this sequence. This variation may be a reflection of differences in shell utilization. The width of the three appendages was a significant predictor of the horizontal aperture width of shells occupied when animals were offered a choice of shells, suggesting that the appendages are being used to assess this aspect of shell morphology. Removal of combinations of these appendages resulted in compensatory use of other appendages, but had no effect on subsequent shell selection.


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