Influence of motivation on behaviour in the hermit crab, Pagurus samuelis


School of Science Technology and Health

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Both the need for shelter and the need for food can be motivations that alter animal behaviour. We tested the hypothesis that the hermit crab, Pagurus samuelis, deprived of food, shells, or both will respond differently from control hermit crabs when presented with food and shells concurrently. We measured the number of contacts made with both food and shells, and time elapsed until hermit crabs either began feeding or inserted into shells. We interpreted making few contacts and initiating behaviour quickly to be an indication of short decision time and high motivation; whereas, making many contacts and having long initiation time indicated a long decision time and low motivation to acquire resources. Control (C) hermit crabs made 72% more contacts with food and 53% more contacts with shells than shell-less (S) crabs. Control hermit crabs also made 34% more contacts with food and 35% more contacts with shells than starved and shell-less (StS) hermit crabs. This suggests that S hermit crabs were more motivated to acquire shells than C crabs. In addition, StS hermit crabs chose to insert into provided shells, while hermit crabs remaining in their shells chose to feed. Results indicate that being shell-less is a stronger motivation than being starved, such that finding shelter takes priority over finding food when both are needed. In rocky intertidal environments, resources such as food and shells are likely to be ephemeral. Hermit crabs that are motivated to make appropriate decisions to acquire specific resources may have a distinct advantage over those that are distracted by numerous objects in their environment.


Pagurus samuelis; Hermit crabs

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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom





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