Context-dependent use of visual cues in the shell selection behaviour of the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus
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Animals avoid predator attack in different ways; some carry defensive structures to reduce predation, with the classic example being hermit crabs and their use of a mollusc shell as a portable refugium. During shell selection, various shell characteristics are investigated by the crab to determine their suitability. Here we consider the role of visual cues. Previous research suggests that some hermit crabs are more likely to initially choose a conspicuous shell but also to move to backgrounds against which they are less conspicuous, suggesting a short-term/long-term trade-off. Across experiments in which we manipulated shell and background colour, we show initially that Pagurus bernhardus prefer black shells over white but this preference was lost in the absence of visual cues. We then show that the strength of preference was dependent on background colour. We repeated this last experiment with red and yellow shells against red or yellow backgrounds to investigate whether this preference extended to chromatic hues. A preference for darker (red) shells was expressed, but preference alteration with background was not observed. P. bernhardus therefore discriminate between shells in terms of shell and background colour, and discrimination may be rooted in a preference for darker shaded shells.
Rimmer , J E V , Todd , C D & Shuker , D M 2021 , ' Context-dependent use of visual cues in the shell selection behaviour of the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus ' , Behavioural Processes , vol. 188 , 104414 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2021.104414
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