Population Biology of Blue-Legged Hermit Crabs


The blue legged hermit crab Clibanarius tricolor is a popular species for ornamental aquarists because the animals are hardy, brightly colored, and help clean algae from the aquarium. The majority of blue legged hermit crabs sold in the US are harvested from Florida. Recent studies have found that Florida is a hotspot of biodiversity: for sea anemones and shrimp in the Florida Reef Tract, what had been thought to be one species are really two, with one of the two species being found nowhere else.

We aim to understand whether the blue legged hermit crab is a widespread, genetically diverse species or whether populations in Florida are unique. The outcome will help inform harvest limits for blue legged hermit crabs in Florida and will help us understand the biogeography of the tropical west Atlantic.