Hermit crabs (inset: Dardanus pedunculatus while
out of its shell shortly before molting) regularly
need to find larger shells, and certain species
(right: a group of Calcinus elegans in the aquarium)
like to employ a social network for the purpose.
it does not try to get into the new shell or
leave in search of another one, but awaits
the arrival of other conspecifics who are also
looking for new homes. The result is that a
group of hermits assembles by the large shell.
As soon as one arrives for whom the shell is a
good fit, then there is a chain reaction: that
crab leaves its original home vacant, another
crab moves into that vacant shell, and so on
down the line, with each crab in turn acquiring a new shell. With the aid of this social
network, the crabs operate a highly efficient
method of “house-hunting” so that all can
Rotjan, R. d., J. R. Chabot, and S. M. Lewis. 2010.
Social context of shell acquisition in Coenobita
clypeatus hermit crabs. Behavioral Ecology 21 ( 3):
639–646; doi: 10.1093/beheco/arq027.
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