Hermit crabs' lesson on wealth inequality

hermit crab
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Can hermit crabs teach us about a common global problem—wealth inequality? The answer is yes, according to a first-of-its-kind study published in the January issue of Physica A.

Lead author Ivan Chase, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University, and his fellow researchers found that the distribution of the empty snail shells in which live was surprisingly similar to the distribution of wealth in human societies. They discovered this by taking a sample of nearly 300 hermit crabs, removing them gently from their shells, and measuring the weights of those shells.

The team used a measure called the Gini coefficient to calculate the amount of inequality in the crabs and found it was similar to that in small-scale human societies such as hunter-gatherers and ancient farming communities.

"The forces that produce in humans are much more complex," emphasizes Chase. However, he believes that by observing and documenting hermit crab activity with shell distribution and re-distribution, we may gain insights into wealth inequality, and the crabs themselves could serve as a to study this complex and difficult problem in .

For more details about the wealth comparison study and the method used by Chase and colleagues, see this video produced by Stony Brook University student Alyson Hall titled Economy at the Beach. Credit: Stony Brook University

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More information: Ivan D. Chase et al. A comparison of wealth inequality in humans and non-humans, Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.physa.2019.122962
Citation: Hermit crabs' lesson on wealth inequality (2020, January 6) retrieved 17 January 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-01-hermit-crabs-lesson-wealth-inequality.html
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