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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 14:22 GMT
Cornish crabs have more backbone
Hermit crab - pic courtesy of Dr Mark Briffa
The team studied hermit crabs for six months
Scientists in Devon say their research shows that crabs from Conwall are braver than their Devon equivalents.

Experts at Plymouth University have spent six months studying hermit crabs in Plymouth and Looe.

The have discovered that the Cornish crabs are significantly bolder than their Devon counterparts, who are described as "quite shy".

They arrived at their conclusion by measuring the crabs' startle responses under a range of different conditions.

They are really quite appealing
Dr Mark Briffa

The marine biology experts presented the crabs with an unfamiliar stimulus and saw how long it took each one to recover from being startled by it.

"We know that they have recovered from being startled when they start coming back out of their shell," said Dr Mark Briffa, the marine biology lecturer and animal behaviour expert who led the team in the six-month study.

The majority of studies into animal personalities focus on animals with backbones and the team behind this research say their findings show invertebrates also have personalities.

"Some crabs were consistently bolder than others," said Dr Briffa.

"Also, there were differences in the overall level of boldness in crabs taken from different locations.

"Crabs from Looe in Cornwall were bolder on average than their counterparts from Plymouth, which tended to be quite shy.

"We don't know exactly why that was - it could be any number of factors. It could be the threat of predation - or it could be to do with wave action. That's something we hope to look at in the future."

Dr Briffa and his team now plan to build on the research by investigating the links between boldness and other personality traits such as aggressiveness and inquisitiveness.

"I've been working with hermit crabs for a long time, they are not an exotic or glamorous area of marine biology like dolphins but they are really quite appealing and very common around our shores - I think they're pretty cool."

The full research paper - Comparing the strength of behavioural plasticity and consistency across situations: Animal personalities in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus - has been published in the Royal Society Journal.

Hermit crab ponders man-made home
23 Apr 04 |  Cornwall
Tropical move for homeless crabs
25 Oct 06 |  Southern Counties

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