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Open Access Publications from the University of California

One is the lonliest number: The effects of isolation on the behavioral interactions of juvenile land hermit crabs (Coenobitidae) from the motus of Mo'orea, French Polynesia


Hermit crabs interact with each other in a variety of ways involving spatial use (aggregations, migrations), housing (shells), mating, recognition of conspecifics, and food. To test if isolation from conspecifics affects the behavioral interactions of hermit crabs, crabs of the species Coenobita rugosus (Milne-Edwards 1837) of Mo’orea, French Polynesia were isolated from each other for two days, four days, six days, fifteen days, and twenty-two days. They were kept in individual opaque containers with separate running seawater systems to prevent them from seeing or smelling each other. Afterwards, the hermit crabs were put into a tank two at a time and their behavior was recorded and compared to the behaviors of non-isolated crabs. Behaviors looked at fell into two categories: 1) “social” interactions, meaning that the crabs reacted to each other’s presence, and 2) “nonsocial” interactions, meaning that the crabs either ignored each other’s presence or actively avoided behavioral interactions with other crabs. Results indicated that although “social” behavior showed a slight decreasing trend over time, it was not significant; however, the amount of “nonsocial” avoidance behavior seen increased significantly the longer crabs were isolated.

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