The costs of bearing arms and armour in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Hermit crabs use empty gastropod shells as protective armour and enlarged chelipeds as signals and weapons. However, carrying armour and arms may impose energy costs that result in increased lactate and hence potential fatigue and there may be consequent effects on general activity. We investigated whether variation in shell and cheliped size influences lactate levels in hermit crabs. Lactate was positively related to residual cheliped size for both sexes and was higher in males than females; when we controlled for body size, the former had larger chelipeds. Shell weight unexpectedly had no effect on lactate but crabs in small shells had high lactate, possibly because of reduced ability to maintain a respiratory current. The size of natural shells had no effect on activity but the addition of food odour increased locomotion. However, activity was not related to lactate. We conclude that possession of larger chelipeds than expected for body size imposes significant costs and may limit development of sexual dimorphism. (C) 2010 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-642
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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