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Data from: Scent of death: evolution from sea to land of an extreme collective attraction to conspecific death

Citation

Valdes, Leah; Laidre, Mark E. (2019), Data from: Scent of death: evolution from sea to land of an extreme collective attraction to conspecific death, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2t547dd

Abstract

All living organisms must eventually die, though in some cases their death can bring life-giving opportunities. Few studies, however, have experimentally tested how animals capitalize on conspecific death and why this specialization would evolve. Here we conducted experiments on the phylogenetically most closely-related marine and terrestrial hermit crabs to investigate the evolution of responses to death during the sea-to-land transition. In the sea, death of both conspecifics and heterospecifics generates unremodeled shells needed by marine hermit crabs. In contrast, on land, terrestrial hermit crabs are specialized to live in architecturally remodeled shells, and the sole opportunity to acquire these essential resources is conspecific death. We experimentally tested these different species’ responsiveness to the scent of conspecific versus heterospecific death, predicting that conspecific death would have special attractive value for the terrestrial species. We found the terrestrial species was overwhelmingly attracted to conspecific death, rapidly approaching and forming social groupings around conspecific death sites that dwarfed those around heterospecific death sites. This differential responsiveness to conspecific versus heterospecific death was absent in marine species. Our results thus reveal that on land a reliance on resources associated exclusively with conspecifics has favored the evolution of an extreme collective attraction to conspecific death.

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