Gender differences, responsiveness and memory of a potentially painful event in hermit crabs

M. Appel, Robert Elwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Nonreflexive responses to a noxious event and prolonged memory are key criteria of a pain experience. In a previous study, hermit crabs, Pagurus bernhardus, that received a small electric shock within their shell often temporarily evacuated the shell and some groomed their abdomen and/or moved away from their vital resource. Most, however, returned to the shell. When offered a new shell 20 s later, shocked crabs were more likely than nonshocked crabs to approach and move into a new shell and did so more quickly (Elwood & Appel 2009, Animal Behaviour, 77, 1243-1246). Here we examined how increasing the time between the shock and the offering of a new shell influences the response. There was evidence of a memory of the aversive shock that lasted at least 1 day. Crabs tested after 30 min and 1 day were more likely to approach the shell and new shells were more likely to be taken 30 min after the shock. Shocked crabs approached the new shell more quickly and used fewer probes of the chelipeds prior to moving in and these results were stable over time and significant for specific times up to 1 day. Females were more likely than males to evacuate shells and did so after fewer shocks. These results extend previous work and demonstrate an extended memory of having been shocked. The findings are consistent with respect to criteria for pain that are accepted for vertebrates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1373-1379
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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