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See Inside April 2005

How Animals Do Business

Humans and other animals share a heritage of economic tendencies--including cooperation, repayment of favors and resentment at being shortchanged

Just as my office would not stay empty for long were I to move out, nature's real estate changes hands all the time. Potential homes range from holes drilled by woodpeckers to empty shells on the beach. A typical example of what economists call a "vacancy chain" is the housing market among hermit crabs. To protect its soft abdomen, each crab carries its house around, usually an abandoned gastropod shell. The problem

is that the crab grows, whereas its house does not. Hermit crabs are always on the lookout for new accommodations. The moment they upgrade to a roomier shell, other crabs line up for the vacated one.

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