Composition, density, and shell use of hermit crabs (Crustacea: Paguroidea) from subtidal boulder fields in southeastern Brazil
Marcondes Lima, Daniel José
Alves, Douglas Fernandes Rodrigues
Cobo, Valter José
Hermit crabs are common and abundant members of the intertidal community and in sublittoral bottoms, where they play a fundamental role in the trophic chain. This study aimed to determine the composition of the hermit crab fauna, to quantify the density in the natural environment, and to register shells use by main species from subtidal boulder fields, in an island off the southeastern Brazilian coast. Monthly samples were taken from March 2010 to February 2011 on boulder fields on Couves Island, Ubatuba, Brazil, during scuba diving daytime sessions. Three hundred and eighty-three crabs were collected by hand, in a quadrat of 20 m2 belonging to five species: Calcinus tibicen, Dardanus venosus, Pagurus brevidactylus, Paguristes tortugae, and Petrochirus diogenes. The highest densities were recorded for P. brevidactylus and P. tortugae. Hermit crabs occupied shells of 15 gastropod species. Cerithium atratum, Gemophos auritulus, and Morula nodulosa comprised more than 80% of the occupation. The heterogeneity of boulder fields of Couves Island, composed almost entirely of small refuges and crevices, favors the exploration of hermit crab species recorded here, which are characterized by small size. These results, combined with the findings of further studies, can contribute to the development of effective monitoring programs for decapod crustacean species.