The use of artificial shells for exploring shell preference in the marine hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus (Say)
Annales Zoologici Fennici
Although recognition behavior is central to many aspects of an organism's biology, it has been difficult to effectively identify the individual recognition components (i.e., production, perception, and action) for most organisms. Among hermit crabs, a relatively well-studied system for recognition behavior, the precise shell cues that stimulate crabs to explore and choose empty shells are unclear. We have developed a novel method for studying shell selection in the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus. Using rapid prototyping technologies, we have produced artificial gastropod shells based on 3-dimensional virtual models derived from the morphological parameters of shell geometry. In our study, individual P. longicarpus reliably inspected and occupied artificial shells thus enabling us to make specific modifications to test hypotheses of shell preferences. In addition to discriminating based on shell size, coating shells with crushed CaCO3 from remnants of natural shells increased shell acceptance. This latter result supports prior speculation that calcium is a recognition cue for shell preference. Our results indicate that this novel method of shell design and fabrication has great potential for more detailed investigations of recognition behavior in hermit crabs.
Gravel, B., Wong, P., Starks, P., & Pechenik, J. (2004). The use of artificial shells for exploring shell preference in the marine hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus (Say). Annales Zoologici Fennici, 41 (3), 477-485. Retrieved from https://docs.rwu.edu/seccm_fp/130