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A comparative study of aggression and spatial differences between two populations of
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Dr Michael Sweet
Caven DJ, Clayton RL, Sweet MJ
Journal of Young Investigators
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Hermit crab populations are limited by shell availability; therefore fights to gain a suitable shell are frequent. Although a large amount of research has studied hermit crab aggressive behaviour, few have correlated this behaviour with location. This study was carried out to investigate the influence of wave exposure on the behaviour of the common hermit crab Pagarus bernhardus. Crabs from two sites on Isle of Cumbrae, with differing levels of wave exposure, were tested for their aggressive behaviour in laboratory trails. Our results showed no significant difference (p > 0.05) in overall behaviour between de-shelled crabs from sheltered sites and those from exposed areas. However, when the behaviours were considered independently, fighting did show significant differences (p < 0.05), possibly due to P.bernhardus from exposed sites being more aggressive. This behaviour was altered when the crabs from each location retained their shells, resulting in no significant difference in overall behaviour and fighting behaviour (p > 0.05 and p > 0.05 respectively). This suggested that P.bernhardus is more aggressive in stressful situations (without shell protection) and this behaviour is masked under normal conditions. Predator presence (Necora puber) had no significant effect on the shell search time of de-shelled hermit crabs.
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