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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT Analysis of monthly quadrat samples taken between November 1985 and December 1986 at Sebastian Inlet, Florida, revealed a variable seasonal abundance of Clibanarius vittatus (Bosc, 1802) and spatial distribution of hermit crabs. Mean annual abundance of C. vittatus was 7.7 hermit crabs per m2 with maxima in November (13.9 crabs per m2) and in March (13.8 crabs per m2) and a minimum in January (1.5 crabs per m2). Fine mud and sea-grass habitats appear to be preferred over sandy bottoms. The average sex ratio of females to males was 3.1:1, but January and April samples approached 1:1. Large males (shield length > 10 mm) emigrated during late fall and returned in April, while females and small males remained in the study area. Egg production occurred during April through September, while recruitment of small crabs (SL < 2 mm) into shells began in September and peaked in the winter months. Females tended to have a unimodal size distribution, while males showed a polymodal size distribution with a broader range of size classes. Laboratory experiments showed that C. vittatus significantly reduced the number of amphipods, tanaidaceans, and nemerteans in areas of sea grass, and significantly reduced the number of polychaetes and isopods in areas of bare sand. It is suggested that disturbance of the substratum may explain this reduction.


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