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Terrestrial Hermit Crabs Learning Social Tricks 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the wait-until-they-drive dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When it comes to abandoned snail shells that hermit crabs expropriate as mobile homes, size matters, for room to grow, room for eggs, and protection from predators. UC Berkeley evolutionary biologist Mark Laidre found that terrestrial hermit crabs on the Pacific shore of Costa Rica congregate in aggressive swap meets where one crab is forced from a relatively large shell, whereupon the rest trade up (one loser and multiple winners, pretty good odds). The loser gets the smallest shell, which means likely doom. Laidre and his colleagues note that most hermit crabs live in the ocean, where there are usually enough abandoned shells to go around so most can live, well, hermit-like lives without much interaction with fellow crabs. Not so on land, at least in Costa Rica."
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Terrestrial Hermit Crabs Learning Social Tricks

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  • The summary introduces the word "learning" which is not in the article. The behavior is certainly interesting. But is there any evidence it is learned through experience rather than being inherited?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The skills could be learned by an individual through experience and imitation, or by the species through adaptation and natural selection. Hmm... how could researchers tell the difference? I guess if you isolated a bunch from birth and then saw what happened when they were thrown onto the killing grounds, you might be able to confirm innate skills if that turns out to be the case.

  • by moniker127 (1290002) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @08:16PM (#41800161)
    For a second there, I thought the biology tag said biography, and I got really scared. You don't need to know about my tricks yet.
  • by Beardydog (716221) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @08:16PM (#41800167)
    What do we want?


    When do we want them?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Occupy doesn't work like that. They all get together and via a complex process of hand signals indicate what they like and don't like. Then they break up into smaller committees, and subcommittees, and breakaway groups, each with their own ideas of what ought to be done about a thing. After several months, nothing has been done, the fort has burned down, the police have kicked everyone out of the park, and the only thing they have in common is that they blame the government for their utter inability to orga

  • It's like a reality show, for crabs. 'Win, and you keep your shell. Lose, and you get the SMALLEST SHELL, and everyone else goes up a level. You all ready? OK, GO.'
    • Question is - does the losing crab get even later on, starting a crab inter-familial feud that escalates into crab war?

      Only then can they fully appreciate the lows of human nature.

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @08:35PM (#41800271) Journal

    Hermit crabs are the animal kingdom’s most dickish neighbors []

    ...sometimes hermit crabs hang out... and they're invariably total assholes to each other.

  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @08:36PM (#41800275)
    Crabs can also be used as the logic gates to compute certain functions. I kid you not! The Boston Globe [] had an article about some Japanese researchers who used crabs to design logic gates based on their motion on the beach.

    Their swarm computing article (pdf link [] in the journal Complex Systems) is rather interesting.

  • by Time_Ngler (564671) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @08:40PM (#41800297)

    Somewhat like social security. Each generation creates a larger shell, only to have the largest one ripped away from them by current retires when social security collapses. At the end of which, the current workforce get the remaining scraps.

    • More like the average revolution. Everyone sees how there's some fat crab in a big home so everone bands together, kicks the old boss out and a new boss is installed, who is essentially the same dickhead as the old one.

  • Old News (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Everyone knows if you turn a few 'social' tricks you stand a good chance of getting crabs.

  • Memories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jjp9999 (2180664) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @09:15PM (#41800455) Homepage
    I used to go to Costa Rica during the winters when I was a kid, and I loved watching the hermit crabs. There are TONS of them there. All over the beaches. Crawling in the sand going down to the beach. I actually watched them hijacking shells from each other (although I'd play the good guy and get their shells back sometimes).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 28, 2012 @09:18PM (#41800475)

    A stronger crab with a small damaged shell was trying to pry out a weaker one with new shell. He was probably weak from days of siege. I had to apply quite some force to tear them apart. After a brief isolation under toy buckets I set them free and the stronger crab jumped on his prey again, this time literally getting his foot in the door (they use the larger claw as a door).

    There is a nice beach restaurant in Samara, Costa Rica, that I can recommend if you want to see them congregate in huge numbers, right on the sandy restaurant floor.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Looks like the hermit crabs discovered democracy. :P

  • by Gothmolly (148874) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @09:59PM (#41800661)

    We are envious of what you have acquired, therefore we'll all team up and seize it.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @11:20PM (#41801035) Journal

      American socialism?
      That's a great talking point.... Until you look at the numbers.

      America's wealthiest have gotten that way by indexing wages to inflation for the last few decades and then collecting the fruits of our enormous economic growth.

      It also doesn't hurt that they've been bribing^W lobbying for rules in their favor since the Great Depression kicked off strong reforms.

      Seriously, go back and read what the founding fathers had to say and look hard at what they did.
      They understood that creating a monied aristocracy was a terrible thing and their taxation policies and ideologies reflected that.

      • by L1mewater (557442)

        Seriously, go back and read what the founding fathers had to say and look hard at what they did. They understood that creating a monied aristocracy was a terrible thing and their taxation policies and ideologies reflected that.

        Weren't the founding fathers mostly wealthy land and slave owners? I don't think I'm seeing your point.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          Weren't the founding fathers mostly wealthy land and slave owners? I don't think I'm seeing your point.

          But wealthy landowners != european nobility.
          I used the word "aristocracy" for a reason.

          Far too many people think they understand what America was intended to be,
          yet have never read any of the voluminous papers written by the men who founded the country.

    • We are envious of what you have acquired, therefore we'll all team up and seize it.

      You complain that it is socialism, yet I see it as the purest form of capitalism. One is able to influence physical force, which is the rawest from of power to gain what they want. John Ghalt would be proud, the lead antagonist was able to gain what they desired though using whatever means they had. Why do you complain about this? Utilizing the masses to gain what they desired has always been a mainstay of capitalism. The crabs are just ahead of the curve and an example of winner take all society. Think t

  • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @10:05PM (#41800685) Journal

    Lets all vote on who gets kicked out of their shell so the rest of society can get an upgrade. That damn 1% doesn't deserve the largest shell.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      The flaw in this analogy is that shells are not like wealth. Wealth can be divided up, shells cannot. You can share wealth out any way you like, but only one person at a time can inhabit a shell.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Except they are divided up by size. While an individual shell can't be shared, by re-arranging the shells the crabs now have a redistribution of the wealth. Bumping everyone up and the biggest one out, everyone but one gets an upgrade.

  • by Pennidren (1211474) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @11:46PM (#41801171)
    It's like nature's musical chairs... OF DEATH!
  • have been getting rougher and rougher each year, I am not surprised that even the crabs are having a hard time keeping their assets intact............
  • From Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Dad-a-chack, dum-a-chum!
    • by robsku (1381635)

      Damn, I was just reading it today - I'm at the point where Roland got the aspirin from Eddie and is feeling better... just yesterday I read the part where the "lobstrosities" (are they called that in the English version? I'm reading the Finnish translation) bit Rolands Fingers off...

      I've read it once before though - it's good enough for second read :)

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <> on Monday October 29, 2012 @07:52AM (#41802737) Homepage

    Does the SEC know of this?

  • by jemenake (595948) on Monday October 29, 2012 @11:54AM (#41805273)

    one crab is forced from a relatively large shell, whereupon the rest trade up (one loser and multiple winners

    Reminds me of what's happening in Paris, as the super-rich are fleeing to neighboring countries ahead of the upcoming 75% tax. This is causing the prices of luxury Paris homes to decline in value, allowing the less-affluent to afford them, who then sell their former homes to people further down and... well, you get the idea.

    Now, if those crabs were here in the U.S., 99% of the crabs would be stuck in the same size shell for the past 20 years while a couple of crabs had gargantuan shells (as well as many "vacation" shells on a variety of coasts). But at least they'd be creating jobs for the other crabs... by having them clean their spare shells or something. :)

  • It's good that the crabs re-use their natural resources as best as they can.
  • Being a crazy biologist, I thought it would be fun to see how hermit crabs react to the availability of an unexpected big Rolls Royce shell. They'd been congregating near the showers, so I put it there. At night there was a seething mass of hermits swapping. Shells are at a premium, and I'd noticed earlier that the smallest one was making do with a discarded toothpaste tube cap. It looked very sad.

    Well, the next morning there was no sign of the orgy. No hermit crabs to be seen, no discarded shells, no de

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