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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 640:117-126 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13288

Structural patterns of a coastal hermit crab-gastropod shell interaction network: new insights from a unique relationship

Gabriel Fellipe B. Rodrigues1,2,*, Caio S. Ballarin3, Adilson Fransozo1,2, Felipe W. Amorim2,3

1Núcleo de Estudos em Biologia, Ecologia e Cultivo de Crustáceos - NEBECC, Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade Estadual Paulista ‘Júlio de Mesquita Filho’, 18618-689 Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil
2Programa de Pós-graduação em Ciências Biológicas (Zoologia), Instituto de Biociências, Universidade Estadual Paulista ‘Júlio de Mesquita Filho’, 18618-689 Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil
3Laboratório de Ecologia da Polinização e Interações - LEPI, Departamento de Botânica, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade Estadual Paulista ‘Júlio de Mesquita Filho’, 18618-689 Botucatu, São Paulo, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Hermit crabs are ideal organisms for assessing how species that share resources can coexist, as these crustacean species have an intimate relationship with gastropod shells and therefore compete for this particular resource. There is compelling evidence that hermit crabs do not interact with gastropod shells randomly, but few studies have investigated the community-level interactions between hermit crabs and shells. Here we used network analyses to present the first community-level assessment of the structure of a hermit crab-shell interaction network in a coastal region in southeastern Brazil in order to identify mechanisms that underlie hermit crab coexistence. Our results show that the hermit crab-gastropod shell interaction network was non-nested, specialized, and modular. The modular network structure revealed differences in resource use among hermit crab species. The network structure departs from those of free-living species in which the lack of interaction intimacy between species leads to a nested pattern. Thus, the morphological specialization of hermit crabs in relation to their host shells appears to play an important role in structuring the community-level interaction network. Future studies should evaluate the relative importance of abundance and functional traits in the structure of this unique interaction network.


KEY WORDS: Marine interaction network · Modularity · Species roles · Paguroidea · Mollusk · Crustaean · Coastal ecosystem


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Cite this article as: Rodrigues GFB, Ballarin CS, Fransozo A, Amorim FW (2020) Structural patterns of a coastal hermit crab-gastropod shell interaction network: new insights from a unique relationship. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 640:117-126. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13288

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