, Volume 557, Issue 1, pp 107–112 | Cite as

Chromatic Patterns of the Hermit Crab Calcinus tubularis Related to the Occupied Shell

  • Daniela Pessani
  • Tina Tirelli


Crustacea are known to develop different chromatic patterns due to many factors. Regarding decapods, chromatism was mainly studied in crabs, while very little is known about chromatic patterns in hermit crabs. Calcinus tubularis is a typical infralittoral rocky bottom hermit crab, studied for different aspects of its biology except chromatic variations. This paper aims at describing the different colour morphologies of C. tubularis, discussing hypothesis of why they develop, and testing if in nature the crab prefers a shell with a chromatic pattern similar to that of its body. One hundred and forty crabs were observed and filmed in the laboratory. They were subdivided into two groups, according to their chromatic pattern: 1) light and 2) dark crabs; the shells they occupied were also subdivided into the two groups of 1) light and 2) dark shells on the basis of the epibionts encrusting them. Observations of 129 crabs suggest that the colour depends neither on depth nor on size, intermoult period, diet, reproductive period but it might be connected to genetic factors and might help crab to camouflage. Camouflage is suggested by the fact that 79.3% of the total examined specimens occupy shells with a chromatic pattern resembling that of the crabs themselves. This phenomenon is significantly more recurrent in females than in males and could help the crabs to be cryptic, first with the occupied shell and secondly with the habitat (rocks encrusted by photophylous algae).


morphs chromatism shell preference camouflage 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’UomoTorinoItaly

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