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Science Confirms that Hermit Crabs are Amazing

A brand new scientific paper has just been published, and it’s all about amazing Hermit Crabs!

The research was conducted by Professor Robert Elwood of Queen’s University Belfast and shows us why we shouldn’t underestimate these small animals...

A really interesting fact about hermit crabs is that they cannot grow their own shells and rely on the cast-off shells of others animals to survive. With the whole ocean to search, finding the right shell is very important. Shell selection is fascinating and there’s a lot we can learn about hermit crabs from this complex process:

  1. Shell selection involves extensive information gathering about the shell currently occupied and the potential new replacement shell.

  2. Hermit crabs must form memories in order to assess different shells.

  3. The process requires future planning to recognise how shell shape and size will impact movement.

  4. When fighting for shells, hermit crabs monitor fight performance, and both crabs are influenced by the gain or loss that might be made by swapping shells.

  5. Shells are felt all over, including the interior, and may be lifted to test the weight.

  6. When a shell has gathered debris such as sand inside, hermit crabs rotate the shell to tip out the contents.

After observing the animals’ interactions with shells, Elwood concluded that hermit crabs show an ability to interpret information through their senses, to evaluative this information, and be forward planning and self-aware when making complex decisions. A significant outcome!

Scientific work can play an important role in improving animal welfare. Understanding other species enables us to recognise how our actions impact their lives and develop appropriate legislation to protect them. It is due to work such as this by researchers like Elwood that decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs were officially recognised as sentient by the UK Government in November 2020, leading to their inclusion in the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

Give the paper a read here:


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