A comparison of the strengths of gastropod shells with forces generated by potential crab predators



Carcinus manenas, Liocarcinus puber and Cancer pagurs are thought to be three likely crab predators of the gastropod Calliostoma Zizyphinum. In order to compare the strenghts of predators and their prey, the whole shell and aperture lip strengh of white and pink Calliostoma morphotypes and the maximum forces exerted by the chelipeds of three crab species were measured. Although white shells were thicker than pink shells, Calliostoma colour morphotyes did not differ significantly in either the force required to break the shell lip or the whole shell. Both Liocarcinus puber and Carcinus maenas have dimorphic chelipeds and their “crusher” chelipeds deliver almost double the forces generated by the‘cutter’chelipeds. In constrast, Cancer pagurus has monomorphic chelipeds both delivering similar forces.

When compared with Calliostoma shell strenght, the forces generated by the‘crusher’chelipeds of most L. puber tested were, in general, sufficient to break the shell lip of Calliostoma shells, whereas forces generated by the‘cutter’chelipeds of only the larger individuals were sufficient to break the shell lip. In C. manenas, forces generated by both the‘cutter’and‘crusher’chelipeds often exceeded the minimum recorded force required to break the shell lip and the‘crusher’cheliped reached the minimum force required to break whole Calliostoma shells. Both chelipeds of all C. pagurus tested generated forces in excess of the minimum required to break the shell lip, and the proportion of individuals capable of generating the minimum force required to break the whole shell increased with the size of the size of the crab. Carcinus maenas and Cancer pagurus were capable of breaking both the shell lips and the whole shells of a wider range of shell sizes than L. puber.