Max Planck scientists have found out that the olfactory system in hermit crabs is still underdeveloped in comparison to that of vinegar flies. While flies have a very sensitive sense of smell and are able to identify various odor molecules in the air, crabs recognize only a few odors, such as the smell of organic acids, amines, aldehydes, or seawater.
Adult Coenobita clypeatus hermit crab using a discarded snail shell for protection: Both pairs of antennae are clearly visible. Olfactory receptors are located on the inner pair of antennae, which are bent upwards. The crabs’ sense of smell is still underdeveloped in comparison to insect olfaction. Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology/ Krång
A striking feature of the subsequently performed bioassays was that the crabs’ behavioral responses to odorants were more obvious and much faster at a significantly increased humidity, assumingly due to an enhanced electrical excitability of their antennal neurons. The EAG showed in fact a reaction at the neurons which was three to ten times stronger if active odors were applied at a higher humidity. In contrast, antennal neurons of vinegar flies did not show any differences and responded evenly and independently of the degree of humidity.
Dr. Jan-Wolfhard Kellmann | Max-Planck-Institut
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