Taking Your ‘nems With You

By Richard Aspinall 5 years agoNo Comments

We all love hermit crabs, right?  Full of character, useful (mainly), and available in an assortment of colors, these crustaceans are found in all the world’s oceans.  Most hermits are content to adopt shells in which they will be the sole occupant.  And while some may oust another hermit from their new home, or even kill and eat the shell’s original creator and inhabitant, there are other species that actively encourage their shells to host other creatures.  Meet the Anemone Carrying Hermits.

These pictures are of several specimens of Dardanus tinctor, from the Diogenidae family.  This species is found in the Red Sea.  It carries several specimens of the anemone Caliactis polypus.

This is a great example of mutualism, a kind of symbiosis in which both species benefit.  The crab gains a fine coating of stinging tentacles and the nems benefit from feeding on particles of food released by the crab’s nocturnal feedings.  It is a scavenger and carnivore.

The relationship doesn’t end there though.  The crabs don’t abandon their anemones when they upgrade to a new shell, but will carefully peel the anemones from their old home and then help them to reattach to their new shell.  The crabs push the nems to relocate by tapping on their stalks and encouraging them to release their grip.


Don’t believe me?  Then check this out:

Incredible footage of hermit crab changing shells with anemones!

In this exciting excerpt from the third season of Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, Jonathan films a hermit crab changing shells and then also transferring its anemones from one shell to the other. This is extremely rare footage of a seldom-seen behavior! To see the whole episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFkdiCQxbyg ********************************************************************** If you like Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, join us on Facebook!

  Invertebrates, Photography

 Richard Aspinall

  (480 articles)

Richard lives in Scotland where he works as a freelance writer and photographer. Richard writes for several magazines on topics as diverse as scuba diving, travel and wildlife.

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