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Shell utilization by the land hermit crab Coenobita scaevola (Anomura, Coenobitidae) from Wadi El-Gemal, Red Sea

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  • Crustacea
  • Decapoda
  • Population
  • Hermit Crab


We conducted a study in order to determine the shell utilization pattern of the land hermit crab Coenobita scaevola (Forskal, 1775), the only species representing the family Coenobitidae in the Red Sea. Hermit crabs were collected during July 2003 and January 2004 along the sandy shores of protected area of Wadi-Elgemal, south Red Sea. Animals were fixed in 10% formalin and transported to the laboratory where they were weighed and measured for cephalothoracic shield length (CSL) and width, left propodus length and height. Gastropod shells species were identified, weighed and measured for shell aperture width and length and shell internal volume. A total of 391 individuals were collected (219 females, 172 males) and were found occupying ten shell species, with clear significant occupation of Nerita undata. A positive relationship was obtained between the size of the shells occupied and the hermit crabs. Analysis of shell internal volume and crab dimensions demonstrated that this shell dimension constitutes mainly the determinant for C. scaevola shell utilization. With respect to the size of the animals and the occupied shell type, Nerita undata was occupied by a wide range of CSL (2.5-8.5mm). Small sized crabs (2.5-3.5mm CSL) occupied Planaxis sulcatus and Nassarius arcularius plicatus while larger specimens (8.5-9.5mm CSL) occupied Turbo radiatits, Polinices milanostomus and Monodonta canilifera. Variations in the shell occupation were also recognized among male and females. Comparisons among populational and shell use features led us to suggest the use of this land hermit crab as key-species in the preserving program of shores and protected areas, since this species is the first organism to disappear from any shore when a new tourist establishment is implemented.

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