Does the handedness of the pebble crab Eriphia smithii influence its attack success on two dextral snail species?



The predaceous crab Eriphia smithii (Xanthidae) has one larger claw with molar teeth on either the right or the left cheliped, which it uses to crush the shell of prey. Whether the handedness of crabs affected successful predation on two snail species, Nerita albicilla (Neritidae) and Planaxis sulcatus (Planaxidae) was experimentally investigated. The fate of snails of each species was analysed by multiple logistic regression with three explanatory variables: handedness, shell-size index and individuality of crabs. No effect of handedness was detected in attacks on N. albicilla, probably as a result of the spherical and more symmetrical shell morphology of this species. In contrast, right-handedness contributed to greater attack success on P. sulcatus, which has more conical shells. Further investigation of how snail shells were broken revealed that left-handed crabs had more difficulty breaking the aperture of larger P. sulcatus, which was thought to cause the difference in attack success between right- and left-handed crabs. The advantages conferred by handedness are discussed.