Horse­shoe crabs ex­pected to ar­rive soon on lo­cal beaches

The Enterprise - - News - DANDAN ZOU

In the com­ing weeks, vis­i­tors to the state’s coastal bays and beaches can ex­pe­ri­ence one of the world’s old­est mi­gra­tions — horse­shoe crabs emerg­ing to spawn, as they’ve done here for the last 350 mil­lion years, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

Mas­sive num­bers of these “liv­ing fos­sils” will come out of the depths of the At­lantic Ocean in May and June to lay their eggs on shore, DNR said in a re­lease Wed­nes­day.

The great­est num­ber of horse­shoe crabs can be found on Mary­land beaches dur­ing full moons on May 29 and June 28, and new moons on June 13 and July 12. “The horse­shoe crab is such a unique species here in Mary­land,” Steve Doc- tor, a DNR bi­ol­o­gist who con­ducts an an­nual horse­shoe crab sur­vey, said in the re­lease.

Dur­ing peak egg-lay­ing times, he said, “the horse­shoe crabs are so abun­dant you can’t even see the sand.”

One in­di­vid­ual horse­shoe crab can lay nearly 20,000 eggs. Many of the eggs, how­ever, do not sur­vive. Crus­taceans, fish and mi­grat­ing shore­birds, in­clud­ing the red knot, prey on the eggs for food.

Adult horse­shoe crabs are also vul­ner­a­ble to preda­tors if they get stuck on their backs.

There­fore, to help en­sure the sur­vival of the species, any­one who spots a horse­shoe crab flipped on its back is asked to gently flip the crab over so it can re­turn to the water. The best prac­tice for flip­ping over a horse­shoe crab is to pick the an­i­mal by its sides us­ing two hands, and never by its tail.

While the horse­shoe crab may look men­ac­ing, they are ac­tu­ally harm­less and very gen­tle crea­tures; they do not bite or strike, DNR said. And de­spite their name, they’re not even crus­taceans, but ac­tu­ally arthro­pods.

They are gen­er­ally not fished for con­sump­tion, but have long been used as bait, and in re­cent years, have proven in­valu­able to cut­ting-edge bio­med­i­cal re­search due to their unique, cop­per-based blue blood.


Horse­shoe crabs emerge to spawn, as they’ve done here for the last 350 mil­lion years — give or take a mil­len­nium.

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