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image of Journal of Crustacean Biology

ABSTRACT The capability of terrestrial hermit crabs to detect volatile chemicals in the air does not only concern food-related substances, but may also be used to identify water-related cues. Coenobita rugosus and C. cavipes from Kenya (which in the field exhibit, respectively, high and low levels of terrestrial adaptation) were tested in an olfactometer, with air flows carrying food- and water-related odors. Coenobita rugosus could only barely perceive the odor of coconut, but reacted well to water-related odors. These hermit crabs could detect the difference between fresh water and sea water and orient themselves appropriately, probably according to their hemolymph concentration, while C. cavipes could not. In nature, such an ability might have an important function in terrestrial species for the detection of water sources irregularly distributed inland. Preliminary tests showed that the capability of reacting to water-related odors is also present in C. brevimanus, the most terrestrial of the species of Coenobita, but is probably missing in C. perlatus, among the less terrestrial species.


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