Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Hermit crabs (Pagurus bernhardus) use visual contrast in self-assessment of camouflage

Lookup NU author(s): Matthew Wheelwright



This is the final published version of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Company of Biologists Ltd, 2018.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


© 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Animals can make use of camouflage to reduce the likelihood of visual detection or recognition and thus improve their chances of survival. Background matching, where body colouration is closely matched to the surrounding substrate, is one form of camouflage. Hermit crabs have the opportunity to choose their camouflage independently of body colouration as they inhabit empty gastropod shells, making them ideal to study their choice of camouflage. We used 3D-printed artificial shells of varying contrasts against a grey substrate to test whether hermit crabs prefer shells that they perceive as less conspicuous. Contrast-minimising shells were chosen for Weber contrasts stronger than −0.5. However, in looming experiments, animals responded to contrasts as weak as −0.2, indicating that while they can detect differences between shells and the background, they are only motivated to move into those shells when the alternatives contrast strongly. This suggests a trade-off between camouflage and vulnerability introduced by switching shells.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilby D, Riches S, Daly IM, Bird A, Wheelwright M, Foster JJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Experimental Biology

Year: 2018

Volume: 221

Issue: 13

Online publication date: 04/07/2018

Acceptance date: 15/05/2018

Date deposited: 24/07/2018

ISSN (print): 0022-0949

ISSN (electronic): 1477-9145

Publisher: Company of Biologists Ltd


DOI: 10.1242/jeb.173831

PubMed id: 29976733


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name