Body and resource size at the land–sea interface

Body size in animals varies with many parameters, amongst them taxonomic affiliation, lifestyle and ambient environment oxygen levels. Size has considerable implication to possibilities for animals; for example, parasites need to be small and top predators large. Body size and resource requirements (shell size) were investigated across the land–sea interface in hermit crabs (Crustacea: Malacostraca: Decapoda) and snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda: Prosobranchia). These are two of the few taxa to occur in the sea, on the shore and on land as residents. Both taxa are also appropriate for such an analysis as they are abundant, speciose, cohabit the same environments and are linked—gastropod shells are a critical resource to hermit crabs. Both the maximum and mean sizes of hermit crab species showed parabolic relationships with shore height, decreasing from the sublittoral and supralittoral to the eulittoral. Average maximum size of gastropods exhibited a similar intertidal minimum although variability was high. It is suggested that this pattern is robust: not only did two distantly related taxa show the same pattern, but neither region nor site contributed significantly to total variability. The mass of resources (gastropod shells) used by hermit crabs, however, showed a converse pattern. The smallest shells (relative to hermit crab body size) were used in the sublittoral and supralittoral. Response to environmental stress and predation pressure are offered as two alternate theories to explain the observed body dwarfism and resource gigantism in the intertidal zone.


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Authors: Barnes, D.K.A. ORCIDORCID record for D.K.A. Barnes

On this site: David Barnes
1 January, 2005
Marine Biology / 146
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