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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Chemically stimulated behavior of the Hermit Crab Calcinus latens (Randall 1840) and the role of chemical signaling as a mode of sensory perception within the coral rubble habitat of Moorea, French Polynesia


Aquatic invertebrates utilize multiple forms of sensory perception including chemical signaling, to evaluate their surrounding environment. The hermit crab Calcinus latens is able to detect external chemical cues within the complex coral rubble habitat. These discrete chemicals whether emanated from a potential predator, competitor or conspecific are received through chemosensory structures and elicit a specific behavioral response. This study examines the effect of four chemical treatments (control-ambient sea water, predator-Octopus bocki, potential competitor-Saron marmoratus and conspecific-Calcinus latens) on the number of times an individual Calcinus latens is observed in active, exploratory behavior verses stationary, defensive behavior. The results demonstrate a significant difference in the amount of time observed in defensive behaviors by the hermit crabs exposed to the treatment containing octopus chemical cues when compared to the other treatments. Across the four chemical treatments, there was a significant difference in the observed use of six specific behaviors, indicating a patterned behavioral response, unique for each treatment. Additionally, an experiment testing the response of Calcinus latens individuals to artificially introduced treatment species, (octopus Octopus bocki, shrimp Saron marmoratus as well as conspecifics) in which tested individuals could utilize all modes of sensory perception, was compared to the chemically stimulated behaviors. Analysis of the response behavior to chemical cues verses multimodal sensory assessment of actual treatment species demonstrated a statistically significant similarity in elicited behavior which underlines the importance of chemical signaling in modulating the behavior of Calcinus latens within the coral rubble microhabitat.

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