Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Horseshoe crab faces threats from pollution, development
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.