SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

On the Kenyan coast, Thalamita crenata confines itself to a defined system of crevices and forages, swimming in a few cm of water, within a radius of about 5 m from its shelter. A field study was designed to analyse this crab's ability to find its shelter after being moved away from it.

Crabs were displaced, being kept under water, with full vision of the sky and landscape and released 5 m away from their refuges, at a maximum depth of 50 cm. They were able to return to their shelters within 1 h and followed initial directions which were well orientated towards home. T. crenata was still well orientated and successful in returning home during nocturnal displacements and even after trials in which the landscape was altered. Only blind crabs were neither initially orientated towards home nor successful in returning within two tidal cycles of their release.

The hypothesis that this swimming crab could use orientating information obtained during the outward displacement was then tested. Specimens were dislocated following a non-linear outward path, without vision of the surrounding landscape; other crabs were carried to a false release point and then carried in a closed container to the actual release point. Finally, three kinds of detour experiments were performed. In all these trials the directions chosen by the crabs were still clustered around the home direction and homing success was again high.

These results exclude homing mechanisms based on random search strategies or on egocentric mechanisms, such as path integration. The most probable hypothesis is that T. crenata organizes some visual cues in a map-like arrangement and, detecting these cues from any release point within its home range, uses this map to return home.