The size and shape of shells used by hermit crabs: A multivariate analysis of Clibanarius erythropus

Tancredi Caruso*, Renato Chemello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Shell attributes Such as weight and shape affect the reproduction, growth, predator avoidance and behaviour of several hermit crab species. Although the importance of these attributes has been extensively investigated, it is still difficult to assess the relative role of size and shape. Multivariate techniques allow concise and efficient quantitative analysis of these multidimensional properties, and this paper aims to understand their role in determining patterns of hermit crab shell use. To this end, a multivariate approach based on a combination of size-unconstrained (shape) PCA and RDA ordination was used to model the biometrics of southern Mediterranean Clibanarius erythropus Populations and their shells. Patterns of shell utilization and morphological gradients demonstrate that size is more important than shape, probably due to the limited availability of empty shells in the environment. The shape (e.g. the degree of shell elongation) and weight of inhabited shells vary considerably in both female and male crabs. However, these variations are clearly accounted for by crab biometrics in males only. Oil the basis of statistical evidence and findings from past studies. it is hypothesized that larger males of adequate size and strength have access to the larger, heavier and relatively more available shells of the globose Osilinus turbinatus, which cannot be used by average-sized males or by females investing energy in egg production. This greater availability allows larger males to select more Suitable Shapes. (C) 2009 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-354
Number of pages6
JournalActa Oecologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Mediterranean sea
  • Shape
  • Multivariate analysis
  • Hermit crab
  • Shell use
  • Sex


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