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Population biology and growth of three sympatric species of intertidal hermit crabs in south-eastern Brazil

  • Alexander Turra (a1) and Fosca P.P. Leite (a1)

Abstract

Hermit crab populations have been described in different habitats and latitudes but few studies focused on coexisting populations. Such information is especially important to evaluate the effect of coexistence in the population biology of such organisms. This study was done in the intertidal region of Pernambuco Islet, São Sebastião Channel, south-eastern Brazil. Random samples of crabs were taken monthly during one year to evaluate their size and sex. The three coexisting Clibanarius populations (C. antillensis, C. sclopetarius, and C. vittatus) showed similar patterns of sex ratio (skewed for females), sexual dimorphism (males larger than females), recruitment (February to June) and population growth but differed in size structure (Cs>Cv>Ca) and reproductive activity over the year. Population growth was estimated using the von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF) and revealed that the growth of these three populations was strongly reduced from August to January and that longevity varied from 42 to 48 months. Clibanarius antillensis showed continuous reproduction with high frequency of ovigerous females over the year while C. sclopetarius and C. vittatus had a reproductive peak in April and absence of ovigerous females in August/September. Coexistence seemed to influence population biology of these hermit crabs, given the relationship of their reproductive periods and growth patterns to the shell adequacy to the crabs. The overlap in reproductive peaks and recruitment periods may strengthen competition for shells. Comparisons of the reproductive patterns of the hermit crab populations recorded to date emphasize that reproduction and, consequently, life strategies of hermit crabs are not directly dependent on taxonomic or geographical proximity, but on their evolutionary histories and on local processes acting on each assemblage or population.

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Corresponding author

Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ecologia, e-mail: turra@unicamp.br

Population biology and growth of three sympatric species of intertidal hermit crabs in south-eastern Brazil

  • Alexander Turra (a1) and Fosca P.P. Leite (a1)

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