• individual recognition;
  • chemical cues;
  • multimodality;
  • hermit crabs;
  • Pagurus longicarpus


The behaviour exhibited by the hermit crab Pagurus longicarpus in response to an empty shell varied in the presence of cues from conspecific individuals according to its familiarity or not with them. This binary discrimination was independent of the conspecific's relative size and was based on chemical signatures, an ability that this species shares with a few other aquatic invertebrates. From our results, olfaction appeared to be the dominant sensory channel in P. longicarpus' binary discrimination, but the combination of two signal components from visual and olfactory channels resulted in the enhancement of the response displayed by the receiver. Besides, crabs reacted differently when exposed to their own odour than to the odour of familiar (as well as unfamiliar) conspecifics, suggesting that recognition in this species can be more refined than a binary discrimination and that chemical ‘badges’ may be attributes of individual crabs.