The Horseshoe Crab Plight and Interesting Facts

The horseshoe crab holds a special place in many hearts around the world, including regions along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, such as The Delaware Bay. The map below reveals the horseshoe crab global distribution, including regions along the Indian Ocean and more. Every spring when these time-tested creatures show up by the thousands to spawn, it’s quite a sight to behold. Even though I do not live in these regions, the famed yearly event has reached the attention and interest of my eyes and heart.

source: smithsonianmag.com
Horseshoe Crab Spawning Event
source: bioexpedition.com
Horseshoe Crab on the Beach

Modern Day Plight

During my research of the horseshoe crab, I found myself  feeling very sympathetic toward their modern day plight. Man is going to blow it if he doesn’t wise up. An animal such as the horseshoe crab having survived millions of years through multiple mass extinctions deserves our respect. Because of over harvesting, abuse, habitat disappearance, pollution and their use as bait, the horseshoe crab is close to being on the threatened list. That would be a crime!

source: fossilmuseum .net
Horseshoe Crab Fossil

Because the animal dates back to the Paleozoic Era over 400 million years ago, I chose to include the horseshoe crab as one of the main characters in the upper-middle grade children’s book I completed recently titled Under the Sea Time Forgot. Her name is Breeva and she is a close cousin to another main character in the story since both creatures are arthropods possessing segmented bodies, jointed limbs and an external skeleton called an exoskeleton.

source: factzoo.com
Bi-functional Book Gills of Horseshoe Crab

Help to Humans

The horseshoe crab blood contains copper which gives it the blue color, but more important, their blood contains an ingredient used to test pharmaceutics for impurities. The industry claims this does not harm the animal, but some sources debate this.

source: pbs.org
Horseshoe Crab Blue Blood

 Horseshoe Crab Longevity and Interesting Facts

Horseshoe crabs are simple primitive creatures that haven’t changed much in over 400 million years. Science believes they have survived the eons for several reasons:

1) the size and shape of their exoskeleton shield

2) they can go a year without food

3) they adapt to high salt environments and extreme temperatures

4) their unique blood protects them from infection

* The Atlantic species can grow 18 to 19 inches (46 to 48 cm) from head to tail, while the males grow to approximately 14 to 15 inches (36 to 38 cm). 

* They are gentle animals, non-threatening to humans

* They can breathe in and out of water using bi-functional book gills that resemble pages of a book

* Their thousands of eggs are vital to the survival of migratory birds and other sea animals

Horseshoe Crab Global Distribution

A special chapter in the book I previously mentioned depicts the horseshoe crab named Breeva and her adventure when she steps outside of the ocean for the first time in order to spawn, leaving behind her two closest companions, the spunky, little-cousin, trilobite and the unusually, friendly ammonite.

Horseshoe Crab Classification

  • Kingdom:        Animalia
  • Phylum:          Arthopoda     (Animal having an external skeleton, segmented body and jointed legs)
  • Subphylum:  Chelicerata     (Small appendages to form pincers used to feed)
  • Class:               Merostomato (Separates the Horseshoe crab from Eurypterids (extinct sea scorpions)
  • Order:              Xiphosura       (Includes extinct and modern Chelicerates)
  • Family:            Limulidae        (Modern  horseshoe crab)
  • Genera             Limulus            (Atlantic horseshoe crab)
  • Species            Polyphemus   (Atlantic horseshoe crab)

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