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Niche construction drives social dependence in hermit crabs

Authors
Journal
Current Biology
0960-9822
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
22
Issue
20
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.056
Disciplines
  • Ecology

Abstract

Summary Organisms can receive not only a genetic inheritance from their ancestors but also an ecological inheritance, involving modifications their ancestors made to the environment through niche construction [1]. Ecological inheritances may persist as a legacy, potentially generating selection pressures that favor sociality. Yet, most proposed cases of sociality being impacted by an ecological inheritance come from organisms that live among close kin and were highly social before their niche construction began [2]. Here, I show that in terrestrial hermit crabs (Coenobita compressus) — organisms that do not live with kin and reside alone, each in its own shell — niche-construction drives social dependence, such that individuals can only survive in remodeled shells handed down from conspecifics. These results suggest that niche construction can be an important initiator of evolutionary pressures to socialize, even among unrelated and otherwise asocial organisms.

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