Saw a horseshoe crab this morning. That’s about 8 weeks early. Crazy. Here in New England, I expect to see them beginning in late May, along sandy protected beaches during the new and full moons. At high tide they push in tight, and get down to business. Hell, if you stand still long enough, they will mount your wader boot and try to fornicate. Did
I mention that their eyesight wasn’t stellar?
We call them crabs, but actually they’re more closely akin to arachnids. Spiders? Yup. Flip a horseshoe crab over and take a close look. Its really a harmless, underwater spider with a prehistoric looking shell.
Horseshoe crabs look weird, but they are a contributing member of the marine community. A single female may release 60,000 eggs over the season, and those eggs are an essential source of fat for many migratory, coastal birds. Horseshoe crabs are also commercially harvested for bait in eel and whelk pots. In recent times the biomedical industry has been drawing blood from them too. Yes, they release them back to the water and the vast majority survive. What’s the blood used for? It contains a substance called Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate, which can be used to test for pathogen impurities in medical supplies.