Though it’s called a crab, horseshoe crabs are more closely related to arachnids, such as spiders and scorpions. Like those animals, horseshoe crabs have hard exoskeletons called carapaces. The hoof shape of their bodies is where they get their name.
Their dome-shaped bodies sport two eyes on their tops, with several sets of legs on their undersides. Their primary legs help them move. Another pair of legs close to their mouth acts like pincers, used to pick up and crush food.They also have smaller sets of eyes located towards the front of their carapace as well as light sensing ability on their tails and underparts of their body.
Their tails, called telsons, are neither spiked like stingray tails, nor are they venomous or poisonous. Instead, they use their telsons to flip themselves right-side up in case they get flipped on their backs. However, they can also swim upside-down if they want to.
During full moon nights primarily in May and June, new moon nights and some high tide nights in spring, hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs crawl up the shoreline along the Atlantic coast to mate and lay their eggs. Females lay around 4,000 eggs in clusters. She will do this a number of times until she has laid 20,000 eggs a night and up to 100,000 each season. Most of these eggs will not survive to maturity; they are an important food source for sea turtles, fish and migratory birds.
Horseshoe crab babies look just like adults, but with soft, transparent shells. They will molt up to 16 times before they are full-grown.
- Practice ecotourism by being an advocate for the environment when you’re on vacation. During your travels, support, visit or volunteer with organizations that protect wildlife. Shop smart too! Avoid buying products made from animals, which could support poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
- Share the story of this animal with others. Simply raising awareness about this species can contribute to its overall protection.
- Share the story of this animal with others. Simply increasing awareness and educating others about the threats invasive species pose to local ecosystems can help protect native environments.