Resource partitioning in three species of shallow water hermit crabs



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Partitioning of gastropod shell species as a component of space has been described in three species of shallow water hermit crabs of the Texas coast. The shell species utilized by the hermit crabs were identified, and the distribution of shell species among the crab species and their relationship to crab size were determined. Shell selection experiments based on these distributions were conducted to determine shell species preference, the roles of shell parameters in selection, and factors governing shell exchange. The preferences for and utilization of the various shell species were treated as the partitioning of a potentially limiting resource. Indices of niche breadth and niche overlap were calculated for two communities: (1) the natural community and (2) a hypothetical community in which a potential refuge of the two rarest species was removed. The role of the refuge in reducing species interactions was determined by examination of the community matrices and other community measures. Shell species utilization by the most abundant hermit crab species was shown to be a function of crab size, availability and condition of shell species, and shell species preference. Individuals were shown to base their selection primarily on shell volume rather than shell weight, a behavior related to the ecological habits of these animals.