Sea Creature Feature of the Week: American Horseshoe Crab

SCIENCE | This marine creature is common throughout the East Coast’s beaches during summertime. The horseshoe crab, which is not a true crab, is more closely linked to spiders since it belongs to the subphylum Chelicerata. From May to June, the largest spawning aggregations occur in the Delaware Bay.

The horseshoe crab has ten eyes that it may utilize to find partners as well as detect light. The tail, also known as the telson, permits them to steer and turn themselves upright if they get upside down. This species seems to be dangerous, yet it is not. These crabs, like other crabs, shed their exoskeleton, but these guys construct a new, bigger structure inside the old one.

Horseshoe crabs inhabited the seafloors more than 200 million years before dinosaurs, earning them the nickname “living fossils.” This species has a unique feature regarding its blood. Their blood, unlike that of most mammals and other creatures, is iron-free. Horseshoe crab blood is blue and rich in copper compounds, and it is used in a variety of medical research. Fortunately, many of the crabs are not harmed by this.

The IUCN Red List has listed the American Horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, as vulnerable in 2016, with the population trend declining. Horseshoe crabs are exposed to impacts from fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources, ecosystem modifications, and climate change that has caused habitat shifting and alteration.

In order to raise awareness about horseshoe crab for conservation efforts, I have witnessed beachgoers pick up the crabs out of the water, toss them as far as they could, take photographs, and more. These acts can harm the creatures, so if you come into contact with them, please leave them in their habitat. This applies to all animals since not only are you harming them, but they may also hurt you.

What sea creature are you most interested in learning more about? Leave a comment below!