Clibanarius vittatus (Bosc, 1802)
Family: Diogenidae
Common names: Striped Hermit Crab,  more...
Synonyms: Clibanarius cayennensis Miers 1877,  more...
Clibanarius vittatus image
Clibanarius vittatus  

Species Description: The thinstripe hermit crab, Clibanarius vittatus, is an easily recognizable species present in abundance throughout the IRL. The claw-bearing legs, called chelipeds, are equal in size and covered with short spines and hairs (Voss 1980). The claws themselves are also equal in size, cylindrical, and fairly small (Ruppert & Fox 1988). Fingers open horizontally to reveal several teeth, and the exterior of the claws are covered in bluish tubercles (Williams 1984). Body coloration is greenish to dark brown and marked with conspicuous gray or white stripes, which are most noticeable on the legs. C. vittatus inhabits a variety of gastropod shells, commonly from whelk and conch species (see ‘Associated Species’ below).

Potentially Misidentified Species: Although several species of hermit crabs are found in the IRL and surrounding Florida waters, the coloration and pattern of stripes on C. vittatus make it readily distinguishable from other species.

Regional Occurrence: The range of C. vittatus extends from the Virginia coast in the eastern U.S. south to Brazil (Williams 1984). Crabs can be found on sheltered beaches, mud and sand flats, on rock jetties, in seagrass beds and among mangrove roots, in oyster beds and other coastal habitats to a depth of 22 m (e.g. Williams 1984). Because it can withstand desiccation better than many other hermit crabs, C. vittatus is usually the species found on exposed tidal flats and beaches at low tide (Ruppert & Fox 1988).

IRL Distribution: The thinstripe hermit is possibly the most common hermit species in the IRL, and is located throughout the lagoon in most submerged or intertidal habitats.

Age, Size, Lifespan: With the exception of the giant hermit crab, Petrochirus diogenes, C. vittatus is likely the largest hermit crab species in the IRL. The anterior shield of the carapace ranges from about 14 to 17 mm in length (Williams 1984). Adult crabs are commonly found inhabiting gastropod shells at least 10 cm long (Ruppert & Fox 1988).

Abundance: Mean abundance for thinstripe hermit populations in the IRL at the Sebastian Inlet has been documented to vary seasonally from 1.5 to 13.9 individuals m-2 for January and November, respectively (Lowery & Nelson 1988).

Reproduction & Embryology: As with other crustaceans, C. vittatus reproduces sexually via copulation and the transfer of a spermatophore from the male to the female (Hazlett 1996; Hess & Bauer 2002). Eggs are laid on the abdomen of the female up to one hour after mating (Turra & Leite 2007). Ovigerous, or egg-bearing, female hermits have been reported from April through September for populations at Sebastian Inlet in the IRL (Lowery & Nelson 1988), with each female carrying between 1,000 to 30,000 eggs on her abdomen in a mass commonly called a ‘sponge’. Over the course of their development, eggs grow from a diameter of about 0.4 to 0.7 mm. Fecundity in terms of egg number and weight is positively correlated to the size of the female (Turra & Leite 2001). Because they produce multiple clutches over a single reproductive season, the annual reproductive capacity for a single individual has been estimated at about 180,000 eggs (Turra & Leite 2001).

Laboratory examination of ovigerous crabs revealed that the females exhibited synchronous spawning around sunset, releasing their entire clutch over the course of one to several days (Ziegler & Forward, Jr. 2006). After the larvae are released into the water column, they pass through 4-5 zoeal stages and one post-larval stage called a glaucothoe before settling and metamorphosing into juveniles (Williams 1984; Brossi-Garcia 1988). Developmental times may vary with water temperature, salinity, and other environmental factors (e.g. Harvey 1996), but have been documented to range from 24 to 91 days (Williams 1984; Turra & Leite 2007).

Temperature: Based on their known range in warm temperate to tropical climate zones, thinstripe hermits likely prefer and/or require warm waters in order to thrive. Like most organisms that reproduce via planktonic larvae, larval development times decrease in warmer water temperatures (Williams 1984). Larvae cultured at 25°C took two months to metamorphose into their juvenile stage, while those held at 15°C failed to reach metamorphosis. Such studies suggest that the species range is determined by the thermal tolerances of the larvae, as opposed to those of the more robust adults (Williams 1984).

Salinity: Thinstripe hermits are found in many habitats, from brackish estuaries to more saline coastal waters. Some studies have found that salinity plays a role in the rate of larval development and growth (Williams 1984).

Trophic Mode: Thinstripe hermits are considered to employ an opportunistic trophic mode, feeding on a variety of plant and animal material. Diet studies involving gut content analysis revealed that crabs consumed 40% scavenged material, 40% detritus, and 20% substratum (Williams 1984).

Predators: Information on the predators of C. vittatus is scarce, but crabs are likely preyed upon by large benthic-feeding fishes and other crustaceans. Eggs and larvae are consumed by a variety of organisms, including some species that are considered to be commensals of the parent crab (Williams 1984).

Caine, EA. 1976. Relationship between diet and the gland filter of the gastric mill in hermit crabs (Decapoda, Paguridea). Crustaceana 31: 312-313.

Brossi-Garcia, AL. 1988. Juvenile development of Clibanarius vittatus (Bosc, 1802) (Decapoda, Anomura), in the laboratory. Crustaceana 54: 294-313.

Diaz, H, Orihuela, B, Rittschof, D & RB Forward, Jr. 1995. Visual orientation to gastropod shells by chemically stimulated hermit crabs, Clibanarius vittatus (Bosc). J. Crust. Biol. 15: 70-78.

Harvey, AW. 1996. Delayed metamorphosis in Florida hermit crabs: multiple cues and constraints (Crustacea: Decapoda: Paguridae and Diogenidae). Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 141: 27-36.

Hazlett, B. 1996a. Organisation of hermit crab behavior: responses to multiple chemical inputs. Behav. 133: 619-642.

Hazlett, B. 1996b. Reproductive behavior of the hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus (Bosc, 1802). Bull. Mar. Sci. 58: 668-674.

Hazlett, B, Rittschof, D & CE Bach. 2005. The effects of shell and coil orientation on reproduction in female hermit crabs, Clibanarius vittatus. J. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 323: 93-99.

Hess, GS & RT Bauer. 2002. Spermatophore transfer in the hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus (Crustacea, Anomura, Diogenidae). J. Morphol. 253: 166-175.

Kaplan, EH. 1988. A field guide to southeastern and Caribbean seashores: Cape Hatteras to the Gulf coast. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA. USA. 393 pp.

Leite, FPP, Turra, A & SM Gandolfi. 1998. Hermit crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura), gastropod shells and environmental structure: their relationship in southeastern Brazil. J. Nat. Hist. 32: 1599-1608.

Lowery, WA. 1987. Aspects of the population of Clibanarius vittatus at Sebastian Inlet, Florida. Master’s Thesis. Florida Institute of Technology. Melbourne, Florida. USA. 75 pp.

Lowery, WA & WG Nelson. 1988. Population ecology of the hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus (Decapoda: Diogenidae) at Sebastian Inlet, Florida. J. Crust. Biol. 8: 548-556.

Raz-Guzman, A, Sánchez, AJ, Peralta, P & R Florido. 2004. Zoogeography of hermit crabs (Decapoda: Diogenidae, Paguridae) from four coastal lagoons in the Gulf of Mexico. J. Crust. Biol. 24: 625-636.

Ruppert, EE & RS Fox. 1988. Seashore Animals of the Southeast: A guide to common shallow-water invertebrates of the southeastern Atlantic coast. Univ. South Carolina Press. Columbia, SC. 429 pp.

Sant’Anna, BS, Zangrande, CM, Reigada, ALD & MAA Pinheiro. 2006. Shell utilization pattern of the hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus (Crustacea, Anomura) in an estuary at São Vicente, State of São Paulo, Brazil. Iheringia, Sér. Zool., Porto Alegre 96: 261-266.

Sant’Anna, BS, Reigada, ALD & MAA Pinheiro. 2009. Population biology and reproduction of the hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus (Decapoda: Anomura) in an estuarine region of southern Brazil. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. U.K. 89: 761-767.

Turra, A & MR Denadai. 2002. Substrate use and selection in sympatric intertidal hermit crab species. Braz. J. Biol. 62: 107-112.

Turra, A & FPP Leite. 2001. Fecundity of three sympatric populations of hermit crabs (Decapoda, Anomura, Diogenidae). Crustaceana 74: 1019-1027.

Turra, A & FPP Leite. 2004. Shell-size selection by intertidal sympatric hermit crabs. Mar. Biol. 145: 251-257.

Turra, A & FPP Leite. 2007. Embryonic development and duration of incubation period of tropical intertidal hermit crabs (Decapoda, Anomura). Rev. Brasil. Zool. 24: 677-686.

Voss, GL. 1980. Seashore life of Florida and the Caribbean. Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, NY. USA. 199 pp.

Williams, AB. 1984. Shrimps, lobsters, and crabs of the Atlantic coast of the eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, DC. USA. 550 pp.

Ziegler, TA & RB Forward, Jr. 2006. Larval release behaviors of the striped hermit crab, Clibanarius vittatus (Bosc): temporal pattern in hatching. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 335: 245-255.

Clibanarius vittatus image
Clibanarius vittatus  
Clibanarius vittatus image
Clibanarius vittatus  
Clibanarius vittatus image
Clibanarius vittatus  
Clibanarius vittatus image
Clibanarius vittatus