Horseshoe crab studies providing new insight into valuable ancient creatures


Reproducible photos for this release may be found at:
(Horseshoe crab eggs are an invaluable food source for shorebirds on their migratory journey north. Photo courtesy of Bill Hall, University of Delaware.)
(Hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs annually lay and fertilize their eggs on the Delaware Bay area beaches. Photo courtesy of Bill Hall, University of Delaware.)
(Horseshoe crabs laying and fertilizing eggs. Photo courtesy of Bill Hall. )

They look like props from the movie Jurassic Park, but these ancient organisms were around long before the dinosaurs. Some of their closest evolutionary relatives have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years. But while countless other species have come and gone, the horseshoe crab has survived and is of great importance.

At the end of May and during June, hundreds of thousands of these prehistoric creatures emerge from the waters of Delaware Bay to lay and fertilize their eggs in the wet sand. On some beaches they will be met by scientists and volunteers who will carefully count their numbers across a series of sampling plots.

The census was designed by USGS scientists in cooperation with researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, several state management agencies, a biomedical company, and several universities to determine the size and status of the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population.

Contact: Gaye Farris
United States Geological Survey

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