hermit crab

any of numerous crabs, esp. of the genera Pagurus and Eupagurus, that protect their soft uncovered abdomen by occupying the castoff shell of a univalve mollusk.
[1725-35]

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Any crab (families Paguridae and Coenobitidae) that uses empty shells or other hollow objects as a shelter for partial containment and protection of the body.

They are found worldwide in sandy-or muddy-bottomed waters and occasionally on land and in trees. They have two pairs of antennae and four pairs of legs; the first pair of legs is modified to form pincers, shaped to cover the shell entrance when the animal is inside. As the crab grows, it periodically leaves its shell and finds a larger one to occupy. The reddish brown large hermit crab (Pagurus pollicaris; 4–5 in., or 10–12 cm, long) and the small hermit crab (P. longicarpus) are found in North American Atlantic coastal waters.

Hermit crab (Pagurus samuelis).

Russ Kinne
Photo Researchers

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 any crab of the families Paguridae and Coenobitidae (order Decapoda of the class Crustacea). These crabs use empty snail shells (e.g., whelk or periwinkle) or other hollow objects as a shelter for partial containment and protection of the body. Their bodies lack a hard, protected carapace; without a shell they are extremely vulnerable to predators.

      Hermit crabs, worldwide in distribution, occur in sandy- or muddy-bottomed marine waters and occasionally on land and in trees. The soft abdomen is asymmetrical, usually curling to the right. There are two pairs of antennae and five pairs of legs. The first pair of legs is modified to form chelae, or pincers—the right one usually larger—that are shaped so as to cover the shell entrance when the animal is inside. The crab walks on its second and third pairs of legs and uses its shorter fourth and fifth pairs to grip the central column of the snail shell.

      Abdominal appendages on the female carry the eggs, which are held there until they hatch; the young pass into the water as swimming larvae. The larvae eventually metamorphose into small crabs, at which time they must search for their own shells. As the crab grows and becomes too large for its shell, it must find and move into a larger one. The availability of suitable shells is often limited, so competition among hermit crabs for shells of the proper size and in good condition is intense.

      Some hermit crabs live in the tubes of plant stems. Semiterrestrial, tropical species of Coenobita inhabit sections of bamboo stems, broken coconut shells, and other articles, in addition to seashells. Pylocheles, a deepwater crab of the Indian Ocean, lives in bamboo sections; Xylopargus, found in West Indian waters at depths of 180 to 360 metres (600 to 1,200 feet), lives in hollow cylinders of wood. Other species make homes in coral, sponge, or the empty tubes formed by polychaete tubeworms.

      Some species live in close association with other animals. Pagurus (Eupagurus) bernhardus, a common, bright red hermit crab of European and North American coastal waters, often carries one or more anemones on its shell. The robber crab, native to islands of the South Pacific, is a terrestrial species that has discarded the shell-dwelling habit.

      Pagurus pollicaris, a large hermit crab of the Atlantic coastal waters of North America, is reddish brown and about 10 to 12 cm (4 to 5 inches) long. P. longicarpus, a much smaller hermit crab, occurs in shallow U.S. Atlantic coastal waters.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • hermit crab — hermit .crab n a kind of ↑crab that lives in the empty shells of other sea creatures …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • hermit crab — hermit ,crab noun count a type of CRAB with a soft body that lives in the empty shells of other SHELLFISH …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • hermit crab — n. any of various crabs (esp. family Paguridae) that have asymmetrical, soft abdomens and live in the empty shells of certain mollusks, as snails …   English World dictionary

  • hermit crab — noun small soft bodied marine crustaceans living in cast off shells of gastropods • Hypernyms: ↑decapod crustacean, ↑decapod • Member Holonyms: ↑Pagurus, ↑genus Pagurus * * * noun, pl ⋯ crabs [count] : a type of crab that lives in the empty shell …   Useful english dictionary

  • hermit crab — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms hermit crab : singular hermit crab plural hermit crabs a type of crab with a soft body that lives in the empty shells of other shellfish …   English dictionary

  • hermit crab — noun A type of crab species which salvages empty seashells or other portable objects to permanently shelter and protect their soft abdomens …   Wiktionary

  • hermit crab — n. crab that has no hard shell that lives in empty seashells of gastropods …   English contemporary dictionary

  • hermit crab — noun a crab with a soft abdomen, which lives in a cast off mollusc shell for protection. [Superfamily Paguroidea: many species.] …   English new terms dictionary

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