Horseshoe Crab

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Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus)

The horseshoe crab is a type of arthropod that lives in shallow ocean waters in sandy or muddy areas. The blood of the horseshoe crab is very sought-after, as it has medical applications for humans. The horseshoe crab is also used for bait for other ocean-dwelling species and in several types of fertilizer. Though they are called "crabs", they are more closely related to arachnids (including ticks, spiders and scorpions) and are not true crabs.


Content List

1. Scientific & Common Names

2. Characteristics

a. Breeding

b. Behavior

3. History

4. Present Status

5. References


Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Arthropoda

Class - Merostomata

Order - Ziphosura

Family - Limulidae

Genera - Carcinoscorpia, Limulus, Tachypleus

Common Names - Horseshoe Crab


Characteristics

The horseshoe crab serves as many people's introduction to sea-dwelling wildlife, as these crabs are very prolific on beaches and in other bodies of water throughout the country. It is believed that the horseshoe crab has been in existence for at least 450 million years. Scientists consider the horseshoe crab to be a living fossil, as it has retained its prehistoric characteristics.


Breeding

The male horseshoe crab will find a female horseshoe crab and take her away to a secluded area. The female will dig a hole in the sand or mud and lay her eggs. The male will then fertilize these eggs. This usually happens during nighttime hours. The baby horseshoe crabs generally hatch within about two weeks.


Behavior

The horseshoe crab reaches adulthood at around 10 years of age and has a lifespan of approximately 20 years. The females are about one-third larger than the males. Horseshoe crabs are very prolific. They will head out into deeper waters of the ocean to find food and return to the shallow areas and the sandy beaches to mate and start families. The horseshoe crab can lay tens of thousands of eggs in its lifetime. As horseshoe crabs grow, they go through a process known as molting, which involves shedding their outer shells. This process occurs throughout the growth cycle until they reach maturity around the age of nine years old. These molted shells are often found washed up on the shores of beaches.


History

The horseshoe crab can be found anywhere there is open water; oceans and seashores are generally home to the horseshoe crab. In the peak mating months in spring and summer, beaches can be covered with horseshoe crabs.


Present Status

The horseshoe crab has an extremely high population and is in no danger of extinction. These animals have been around for 450 million years and are older than the dinosaurs. The blood of the horseshoe crab has clotting properties that trap bacteria, making these creatures very useful in scientific and medical applications.


References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_crab

http://horseshoecrab.org/

http://www.nwf.org/wildlife/wildlife-library/invertebrates/horseshoe-crab.aspx

http://deepseanews.com/2013/08/how-horseshoe-crabs-may-have-saved-your-life/