Horse­shoe crab faces threats from pol­lu­tion, devel­op­ment

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - LOCAL - By Jim Waymer Florida To­day

Some owe their vi­sion, even their lives, to the hum­ble horse­shoe crab.

So Florida bi­ol­o­gists want our sight­ings of th­ese an­cient crus­taceans, which crawled an­cient Earth be­fore the dinosaurs, much in the same form they ap­pear to­day.

The pre­his­toric species plays a cru­cial role in the In­dian River La­goon and other marine food webs.

But they face in­creas­ing threats from over­har­vest, pol­lu­tion and coastal devel­op­ment that con­sumes their sandy breed­ing grounds. They are killed for com­mer­cial prod­ucts and med­i­cal re­search. Fish­er­men use them for bait. Some peo­ple crush them out of ig­no­rance or fear, or run over them with beach sweep­ers or cars.

To guard the crab’s unique benefits to hu­mans and the food web, bi­ol­o­gists want us to watch for th­ese weird crea­tures, es­pe­cially the ones mak­ing baby crabs.

“I feel horse­shoe crabs have a lot go­ing against them,” said Tif­fany Black, bi­o­log­i­cal sci­en­tist in crus­tacean re­search with the Fish and Wildlife Re­search In­sti­tute. “There are a lot of eggs that don’t make it to ma­tu­rity, and if they can’t breed, it doesn’t look good for the pop­u­la­tion’s sur­vival.”

Since April 2002, Florida re­searchers have run a statewide pro­gram to iden­tify the crab’s most im­por­tant nest­ing beaches.

Beach walk­ers doc­u­ment the time, date, place and num­ber of crabs they see, and e-mail or call in that in­for­ma­tion to a toll-free num­ber.

Peo­ple have the best chance spot­ting horse­shoe crabs around high tide, within three days of a new or full moon.


A hor­shoe crab washed ashore on the beach at Fort Mon­roe. The crabs face in­creas­ing threats to their en­vi­ron­ment that in­clude pol­lu­tion, devel­op­ment and over­har­vest­ing.

Re­searchers are con­cerned that habi­tat de­struc­tion and beach devel­op­ment are im­pact­ing horse­shoe crabs

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