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Ancient homes for hard-up hermit crabs

A Correction to this article was published on 08 November 2001


Mollusc shells are a vital but sometimes scarce resource for hermit crabs, protecting them from mechanical damage and desiccation, but they require continual replacement as the crab grows. I have discovered that Coenobita rugosus, a large, tropical, semi-terrestrial hermit crab, will resort to using fossil shells when no other suitable casing is available. These unlikely mobile homes fall out of coastal limestone as it is eroded by the sea in southwestern Madagascar, placing the occupants alongside Homo sapiens as resourceful exploiters of prehistoric animal remains.

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Figure 1
Figure 2: Percentage of fossil shells inspected and used by the hermit crab Coenobita rugosus as shelter in relation to the availability of empty shells at five different sites in southwestern Madagascar.


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Correspondence to David K. A. Barnes.

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Barnes, D. Ancient homes for hard-up hermit crabs. Nature 412, 785–786 (2001).

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