Factors affecting biodiversity on hermit crab shells
This study explores the abundance, diversity and assemblage structure of epifauna on the shells used by two hermit crab species (Pagurus bernhardus and P. pubescens) in the Arctic (Svalbard and Northern Norway) and investigates the biotic and physical drivers of such patterns. Contrary to our expectations, we found that location (which reflects the variability in environmental conditions and the local species pool of potential colonizers) is a key determinant not only in the cold, ice-scoured, glacier-dominated Arctic shallows of Svalbard but also in boreal Norwegian fjords, where other factors were hypothesized to be more important. Depending on region, shell area and identity were of lesser magnitude, with larger and more irregular shells containing more diverse assemblages. Crab host species also played a role (P. pubescens-inhabited shells supported larger number of individuals and higher diversity than those of P. bernhardus) but this effect might be species or region specific. In this study, no effect of crab gender could be detected. The study indicated that epifaunal assemblages of hermit crab shells are influenced by complex set of factors that interact together to different degree at various locations.