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Data from: Get off my back: vibrational assessment of homeowner strength


Roberts, Louise; Laidre, Mark (2019), Data from: Get off my back: vibrational assessment of homeowner strength, Dryad, Dataset,


Animals may use a variety of sensory modalities to assess ownership and resource holding potential (RHP). However, few studies have experimentally tested whether animals can assess these key variables through a purely vibrational modality, exclusively involving substrate-borne vibrations. Here we studied social terrestrial hermit crabs (Coenobita compressus), where competitors assess homeowners by climbing on top of a solid external structure—an architecturally remodelled shell home, inside of which the owner then produces vibrations. In the field, we used a miniature vibratory device, hidden within an empty shell, to experimentally simulate a ‘phantom owner’, with variable amplitudes of vibration representing different levels of homeowner strength. We found that assessors could use these vibrations to deduce the owner’s RHP: for strong vibrations (indicative of a high RHP owner) assessors were least likely to escalate the conflict; for weak vibrations (indicative of a low RHP owner) assessors showed intermediate escalation; and in the absence of vibration (indicative of an extremely weak or absent owner) assessors were most likely to escalate. These results reveal that animals can assess homeowner strength based solely on substrate vibrations, thereby making important decisions about whether to escalate social conflicts over property.

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