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Animal Roundup

May 21, 2010

Hermit crabs cooperate with each other when looking for shells to live in.


Cooperative crabs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Hermit crabs protect their soft bodies by using empty snail shells as mobile homes. But as they grow, they need to abandon their homes and find larger shells, which isn’t easy. Researchers at Tufts University and the New England Aquarium have found that any large, empty shell draws a crowd of expectant hermit crabs. They begin sorting themselves by size, until one large enough for the new home happens by. When it leaves its shell to move into the new home, the next largest crab takes that shell, leaving its shell for a smaller crab, and so on, until everyone has a roomy new home.

In other animal news, Oxford University scientists recorded the call made by elephants when they were attacked by bees. When they played it back to other elephants, the new group reacted like there were bees present, too, suggesting that elephants use calls to communicate specific information. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.