Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 10, pp 2327–2334 | Cite as

Function of the major cheliped in male–male competition in the hermit crab Pagurus nigrofascia

  • Chiaki YasudaEmail author
  • Yutaro Suzuki
  • Satoshi Wada
Original Paper


Functions of the major cheliped in pagurid hermit crabs have been studied in fights for shells. The major cheliped often shows sexual size dimorphism, suggesting that sexual selection favors the development of the male major cheliped. The function of the major cheliped in male–male competition was examined in Pagurus nigrofascia collected from April to June 2009 on the intertidal rocky shore in southern Hokkaido, Japan (41°N, 140°E). Sexual size dimorphism of the major cheliped was observed, and precopulatory guarding males had larger major chelipeds than solitary ones. Guarding males used the major cheliped to deter intruders during competitive interactions. Males without a major cheliped were disadvantaged even if they were larger than opponents and had ownership. Cheliped size affected the outcomes of contests between similar sized males. This suggests that the male major cheliped in P. nigrofascia protects mates from competitors and, consequently, enhances male mating success. Sexual selection may favor the development of the major cheliped in male pagurids.


Sexual Selection Large Male Sexual Size Dimorphism Hermit Crab Small Male 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank Dr. Chris Norman, Dr. Fumio Takeshita, Mr. Paul Larson, Dr. John Bower, and two anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

227_2011_1736_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 18 kb)


  1. Abello P, Warman CG, Reid DG, Naylor E (1994) Chela loss in the shore crab Carcinus maenas (Crustacea: Brachyura) and its effect on mating success. Mar Biol 121:247–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersson M (1994) Sexual selection. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnott G, Elwood RW (2007) Fighting for shells: how private information about resource value changes hermit crab pre-fight displays and escalated fight behaviour. Proc R Soc B 274:3011–3017CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asakura A (1987) Population ecology of the sand-dwelling hermit crab Diogenes nitidimanus Terao: 3. mating system. Bull Mar Sci 41:282–288Google Scholar
  5. Baeza JA (2008) Social monogamy in the shrimp Pontonia margarita, a symbiont of Pinctada mazatlanica, off the Pacific coast of Panama. Mar Biol 153:387–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baeza JA, Thiel M (2007) The mating system of symbiotic crustaceans. A conceptual model based on optimality and ecological constraints. In: Duffy JE, Thiel M (eds) Reproductive and social behavior: crustaceans as model systems. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Barki A, Harpaz S, Karplus I (1997) Contradictory asymmetries in body and weapon size, and assessment in fighting male prawns, Macrobrachium rosenbergii. Aggressive Behav 23:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Briffa M, Dallaway D (2007) Inter-sexual contests in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus: females fight harder but males win more encounters. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 61:1781–1787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brock RE, Smith LD (1998) Recovery of claw size and function following autotomy in Cancer productus (Decapoda: Brachyura). Biol Bull 194:53–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bywater CL, Angilletta MJ, Wilson RS (2008) Weapon size is a reliable indicator of strength and social dominance in female slender crayfish (Cherax dispar). Funct Ecol 22:311–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crane J (1975) Fiddler crabs of the world. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  12. Daleo P, Luppi T, Casariego AM, Escapa M, Ribeiro P, Silva P, Iribarne O (2009) The effect of size and cheliped autotomy on sexual competition between males of the mud crab Cyrtograpsus angulatus Dana. Mar Biol 156:269–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davis JLD, Dobroski NA, Carlton JT, Prevas J, Parks S, Hong D, Southworth E (2005) Autotomy in the Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) in a non-native area of its range. J Crust Biol 25:655–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Doake S, Scantlebury M, Elwood RW (2010) The costs of bearing arms and armour in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus. Anim Behav 80:637–642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Elner RW, Hughes RN (1978) Energy maximization in the diet of the shore crab, Carcinus maenas. J Anim Ecol 47:103–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elwood RW, Neil SJ (1992) Assessments and decisions: a study of information gathering by hermit crabs. Chapman & Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. Elwood RW, Pothanikat RME, Briffa M (2006) Honest and dishonest displays, motivational state and subsequent decisions in hermit crab shell fights. Anim Behav 72:853–859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Emlen DJ (2008) The evolution of animal weapons. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 39:387–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gherardi F (1991) Relative growth, population structure, and shell-utilization of the hermit crab Clibanarius erythropus in the Mediterranean. Oebalia 17:181–196Google Scholar
  20. Goshima S, Wada S, Ohmori H (1996) Reproductive biology of the hermit crab Pagurus nigrofascia (Anomura: Paguridae). Crust Res 25:86–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hazlett BA (1968) The sexual behavior of some European hermit crabs (Anomura: Paguridae). Pub Staz Zool Napoli 36:238–252Google Scholar
  22. Hazlett BA (1972) Shell fighting and sexual behavior in the hermit crab genera Paguristes and Calcinus, with comments on Pagurus. Bull Mar Sci 22:806–823Google Scholar
  23. Hazlett BA (1989) Mating success of male hermit crabs in shell generalist and shell specialist species. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 25:119–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jennions MD, Backwell PRY (1996) Residency and size affect fight duration and outcome in the fiddler crab Uca annulipes. Biol J Linn Soc 57:293–306Google Scholar
  25. Juanes F, Smith LD (1995) The ecological consequences of limb damage and loss in decapod crustaceans: a review and prospectus. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 193:197–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Laidre ME (2009) How often do animals lie about their intentions? An experimental test. Am Nat 173:337–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Laidre ME, Elwood RW (2008) Motivation matters: cheliped extension displays in the hermit crab, Pagurus bernhardus, are honest signals of hunger. Anim Behav 75:2041–2047CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lee SY, Seed R (1992) Ecological implications of cheliped size in crabs: some data from Carcinus maenas and Liocarcinus holsatus. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 84:151–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mariappan P, Balasundaram C, Schmitz B (2000) Decapod crustacean chelipeds: an overview. J Biosci 25:301–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murai M, Backwell PRY (2006) A conspicuous courtship signal in the fiddler crab Uca perplexa: female choice based on display structure. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 60:736–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Neil SJ (1985) Size assessment and cues: studies of hermit crab contests. Behaviour 92:22–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Robinson MH, Abele LG, Robinson B (1970) Autotomy: a defense against predators. Science 169:300–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Smith LD (1992) The impact of limb autotomy on mate competition in blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus Rathbun. Oecologia 89:494–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sneddon LU, Huntingford FA, Taylor AC (1997) Weapon size versus body size as predictor of winning in fights between shore crabs, Carcinus maenas (L.). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 41:237–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Takeshita F, Henmi Y (2010) The effect of body size, ownership, and sex-ration on the precopulatory mate guarding of Caprella penantis (Crustacea: Amphipoda). J Mar Biol Assoc UK 90:275–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wada S, Tanaka K, Goshima S (1999) Precopulatory mate guarding in the hermit crab Pagurus middendorffii (Brandt) (Decapoda: Paguridae): effects of population parameters on male guarding duration. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 239:289–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wellborn GA (2000) Selection on a sexually dimorphic trait in ecotypes within the Hyalella azteca species complex (Amphipoda: Hyalellidae). Am Midl Nat 143:212–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wilson RS, Angilletta MJ Jr, James RS, Naves C, Seebacher F (2007) Dishonest signals of strength in male slender crayfish (Cherax dispar) during agonistic encounters. Am Nat 170:284–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Yoshii K, Takeshita F, Wada S (2009) Reproduction and growth in the hermit crab Pagurus nigrofascia (Anomura: Crustacea): do males incur costs for molting in precopulatory mate guarding? Jpn J Benthol 64:25–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Yoshino K, Goshima S (2002) Sexual dominance in hermit crab shell fights: asymmetries in owner-intruder status, crab size, and resource value between sexes. J Ethol 20:63–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Yoshino K, Koga T, Oki S (2011) Chelipeds are the real weapon: cheliped size is a more effective determinant than body size in male–male competition for mates in a hermit crab. Behav Ecol Sociobiol. doi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1190-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Marine Biology, Graduate School of Fisheries ScienceHokkaido UniversityHokkaidoJapan

Personalised recommendations