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Are Hermit Crabs Intelligent? (They’re Smarter Than You Think)

Are Hermit Crabs Intelligent? (They’re Smarter Than You Think)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

So many people are becoming interested in keeping hermit crabs as pets. You might have heard that these pets are relatively low-maintenance options.

This is true, but that’s not the only reason why people like them. Many people enjoy hermit crabs because they seem to have great personalities.

They can certainly be a lot of fun to observe. If you’re looking for an interesting pet that’s outside the norm, it might make sense to buy a pet hermit crab.

Are these creatures intelligent, though? How smart are hermit crabs and what should you expect if you decide to keep one in your home?

Continue reading to learn more about hermit crabs. The information below will show you everything that you need to know about hermit crab intelligence.

Hermit Crabs Are Fairly Intelligent Animals

You’ll find that hermit crabs are fairly intelligent overall. While they don’t possess human-like intelligence, they do show signs of low-level intelligence.

Some people even consider hermit crabs to be among the smartest animals on earth. This is partially because they’re capable of remembering things to a certain degree.

As you continue reading, you’ll learn about some examples of hermit crab intelligence. You’ll also get the answer to common questions about how smart these creatures are.

Once you’ve read everything, it’ll be clear that hermit crabs are rather smart. They aren’t capable of highly intelligent actions, but they are smarter than many people realize.

Do Hermit Crabs Have Brains?

Hermit crabs definitely do possess brains. However, their brains are so different from normal.

These creatures have brains that are very different from the ones that humans and other animals possess. At this moment in time, not everything about hermit crabs’ brains is understood.

Scientists use data from other types of crabs to better understand how a hermit crab’s brain likely works. In the future, more research might be done that will change the understanding of hermit crab brains.

For now, you should know that hermit crab brains are rather small. They’re so tiny that you’d have a tough time seeing them with the naked eye.

A hermit crab’s brain is a small bundle of nerves. It doesn’t look like a traditional brain that you’re likely familiar with.

Hermit crab brains don’t have lobes or sections. Even so, they function and send signals to help hermit crabs understand things and navigate through the environment.

A human brain is made up of tissue and it’s connected to various parts of the body by nerves. Hermit crabs have different brains that are composed almost entirely of the nerve cord.

The entire nervous system setup is very different than what you might expect. What does all of this mean?

Unless you want to do a deep dive into the science behind hermit crab brains, there isn’t a lot that you need to know. However, you should take something away from this.

Hermit crabs don’t possess complex brains. They have far more basic types of brains that are only capable of doing so much.

Despite this, hermit crabs have proven to be capable of many things that show they possess minor intelligence. You’ll learn more about this later.

Do Hermit Crabs Have Feelings?

You might be wondering whether hermit crabs have feelings or not. Despite these creatures having only simple brains, many people feel as if their pet hermit crabs do have feelings.

Is it possible that hermit crabs could possess true emotions? Some researchers think that they might.

Keep in mind that not everything is known about this topic. This is something that is being researched and discussed in certain scientific groups.

There are some past studies that have shown that crabs can feel pain and that they remember the pain. This could indicate that hermit crabs possess some feelings.

It’s speculated that hermit crabs are capable of feeling happiness, fear, anger, and pain. Many invertebrates are said to possess these types of feelings.

Those who argue that invertebrates have feelings say it’s immoral to consume them. Many people eat crabs, crayfish, lobsters, and other types of invertebrates.

What does this mean for your pet hermit crab? It means that it has a memory and it seems to have emotions to some extent.

Can Hermit Crabs Recognize Their Owners?

Hermit crabs won’t learn to recognize their owners in the way that you might expect. A hermit crab isn’t going to remember you based on sight.

This doesn’t mean that hermit crabs can’t learn to recognize their owners, though. It’s said that these creatures can learn to recognize their owners’ voices.

There are even hermit crab owners out there who have taught the crabs to come when their names are called. They do possess the ability to remember, but sight isn’t the primary sense that they use.

Instead, hermit crabs utilize their senses of hearing and smell. A hermit crab can learn to recognize the unique cadence of your voice.

It’s also possible for a hermit crab to recognize your scent. So your pet hermit crab can learn to recognize you even if it’s not in the way that you expected.

These creatures cannot remember faces. They recognize voices and scents.

Hermit Crabs Can Recognize the Smell of Their Dead

Hermit crabs can recognize the smell of their dead. Why is this a sign of intelligence?

Well, it’s a very interesting thing because hermit crabs have a practical reason for recognizing the smell of dead hermit crabs. When a hermit crab dies, the smell will release into the air.

Nearby hermit crabs will catch the scent and it’ll indicate that a shell has become available to use. A hermit crab might approach to see if the shell from the dead hermit crab is better than the current shell that it’s using.

Sadly, this situation can also turn bad. If a hermit crab walks into some type of trap, other hermit crabs might wind up getting killed as well out of curiosity.

Hermit Crabs Respond to Chirping

Many hermit crab owners will chirp at their hermit crabs. When you make chirping noises, you can get the hermit crabs to respond.

A hermit crab will often chirp back when you make chirping noises. It shows that hermit crabs have a willingness to try to communicate even if they can’t truly understand.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that hermit crabs are incredibly intelligent. You can get dogs to bark back at you by making barking noises, too.

It’s simply interesting to note that hermit crabs will respond to chirping. This is something you can try for yourself if you choose to buy a pet hermit crab of your own.

Hermit Crabs Will Line Up to Exchange Shells

People have observed hermit crabs lining up to exchange shells with each other. Interestingly, the hermit crabs will line up in order from biggest to smallest.

They’ll then exchange shells as necessary so that everyone will have appropriate shells. Seeing these creatures coordinate in this fashion is quite a sight.

In some ways, this level of cooperation shows that hermit crabs are very intelligent. They’re capable of lining up based on size and they can figure out which shells should go to which crabs.

It’s honestly very impressive when you get down to it. If you’re looking for evidence that hermit crabs are smart, this might be the best piece of information to focus on.

Hermit Crabs Can Detect How Good Shells Are

It’s even possible for hermit crabs to determine how good shells are. They’ve displayed a remarkable ability to pick out shells that are structurally sound and safe to use.

Currently, it isn’t known how hermit crabs are able to know which shells are good and which aren’t. They seem to have a type of intuition that allows them to pick out the best shells.

Having such an ability makes it much easier for hermit crabs to thrive. In the wild, they do a good job of picking out shells that will protect them.

Of course, they’re good at picking out shells in captivity, too. You’ll likely see your hermit crab go back and forth between many shells trying to pick out the right one when it has outgrown its current shell.

Hermit Crabs May Possess Minor Problem-Solving Skills

There’s evidence to suggest that hermit crabs have minor problem-solving skills. You can take the information about hermit crabs lining up to exchange shells as something that supports this theory.

You’ll also find that studies have been done on how hermit crabs remember the pain. If you recall, you learned that hermit crabs are capable of feeling pain.

This was shown by researchers shocking hermit crabs. In one study, hermit crabs would get shocked when taking too long to examine new shells.

In response, the hermit crabs would speed up and enter new shells faster than before. Also, the way that the hermit crabs chose to move into the shells differed after being shocked.

Such an experiment likely seems cruel to someone who is interested in pet hermit crabs. You could say that it is, but it’s also interesting in certain ways.

Hermit crabs can learn to adapt to pain. They remember the painful experience and react differently based on what they went through.

Since the hermit crabs try to avoid being shocked the next time they’re entering new shells, it shows that they have minor problem-solving skills. Even if hermit crabs aren’t highly intelligent, it’s easy to see that they’re smart in certain ways.

Training Hermit Crabs

Anecdotal evidence suggests that hermit crabs can be trained to a minor extent. You won’t be able to teach hermit crabs advanced tricks, but you can still get them to do certain things.

Training a hermit crab involves reinforcing certain behaviors by giving the crab food. This should get the crab to associate certain actions with the reward.

With training, a crab can be taught to do certain things. Over time, the hermit crab will do the action regularly if you stick with the training method.

It might be possible to make hermit crabs do little tricks if you put the effort into training them. This isn’t a major sign of intelligence, but it’s still something that’s worth noting based on the hermit crab’s ability to remember.

Do Hermit Crabs Like Humans?

Hermit crabs can bond with humans, but they won’t socialize with humans to a high degree. You can handle hermit crabs and they can get used to your presence.

As you bond with the hermit crab, it’ll come to trust you. This doesn’t mean that you can interact with the hermit crab in deep ways.

These creatures love to play and you can buy them toys. You can’t really interact with the crabs or play with them, though.

They prefer to play by themselves or with other hermit crabs. This doesn’t mean that you’re doing a bad job as a hermit crab owner.

It’s simply normal for hermit crabs to interact with others of their own kind. A hermit crab will never be able to understand or interact with a human on the same level as it can with another hermit crab.

Final Thoughts

Now you know that hermit crabs are smart in certain ways. They aren’t the most intelligent creatures, but they are impressive when you consider how their brains work.

Despite having small brains that lack complexity, hermit crabs are capable of remembering things. They can remember the pain and learn to adapt to it.

Many say that hermit crabs are capable of having feelings, too. It’s possible that these creatures might be capable of experiencing happiness, fear, and anger.

You can train hermit crabs to do little tricks so long as they aren’t too complex. They can even learn to recognize you by your voice and your scent.

These are impressive little pets that you might grow very fond of. If you find hermit crabs intriguing, it’ll be easy to get a few of them as pets.

Remember that hermit crabs require the right environment to thrive in captivity. Be sure that you buy everything you need to take care of the hermit crabs optimally.

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