Attention FAE Customers:
Please be aware that NASBA credits are awarded based on whether the events are webcast or in-person, as well as on the number of CPE credits.
Please check the event registration page to see if NASBA credits are being awarded for the programs you select.

Want to save this page for later?

NextGen Magazine


Study Posits Hermit Crabs, Like People, Have Wealth Inequality

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Dec 13, 2019

An analysis of hermit crab shell sizes has found that the best shells are controlled by a small number of individuals while everyone else makes due with mediocre dwellings, a finding that researchers say is similar to human society's wealth inequality, according to the New York Times

Biologists weighed 300 hermit crabs from Long Island, both with and without their shells, then looked at the distribution of the heaviest, generally most desirable, shells and found it to be similar to human economies. Most crabs had medium-sized shells, then, as shells got larger, the distribution got narrower until the largest and best shells were held by only a few elite crabs. 

Since hermit crabs move shells when they get bigger, one might think that the crabs with the largest shells are simply those that lived the longest. However, the scientists said this explanation doesn't work because if that were the case, then the smallest shells would be the most abundant because most crabs would die young, and this was not observed. 

However, while crab society is unequal, human society is still more so. Scientists found the top 1 percent of crabs controlled 3 percent of total shell weight. In contrast, Oxfam says that the 26 richest people in the world own as much as 50 percent of the entire globe.