Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Limuli Interruptus

The walk back to the mainland after our snorkeling adventure at Hagen's Cove was full of fascinating critters cruising the now exposed tidal flats. One of the most common and easiest to spot animals was the horseshoe crab.
There were big'uns, little 'uns, and molts left over from little 'uns becoming bigger 'uns.

By now you are probably aware that horseshoe crabs are not crabs at all, but more closely related to scorpions and their kin. They are Arthropods of course, and like real crabs, they have lots of jointed clacky parts that move in the most amazing ways.

They have been around for a really long time ... essentially unchanged. Apparently they are waiting to see if this whole evolution thing is worth pursuing.
This may be why there are only 4 species of horseshoe crabs on the planet.

Why change when you have a face like this?

The baby above is exploring Emma's gentle hands after she plucked him from the shallows for a visit.
You can find out all you would ever want to know about horseshoe crabs with a quick Gooooogly search, so I won't go into the biology too much, except to say if you love shorebirds, you need to love the horseshoe crab.
Their mass spawnings on beaches up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts stock the larder that stokes the shorebird's engines during their migrations.

Battered, but alive.

This horseshoe crab is alive, but missing some parts. He was plenty active so he should be able to survive a few missing appendages, and being an arthropod, he's able to regenerate those parts over time and molts.

As I was walking and gawking at all the intertidal critters I love, I spotted what I thought was just a single horseshoe crab buried almost completely in the sand. As is my way, I had to touch it, hold it, and generally mess with it.
What I thought was one turned out to be more ... check out the video to see what I found.

Today, I'm heading out with Bear and some mostly grown kids to the Gulf of Florida again.
I'm sure that should bring out a post or two ... you know how Bear is ...Apparently he travelled out to Missouri yesterday while I wasn't looking.

I'm gonna need a longer leash ...


Thunder Dave said...

Too funny, hopefully we'll get some time to do some adventurating while I'm down there this weekend!

Anonymous said...

I remember watching the hosreshoe crabs mating when you and Mrs. FC, Thunder and I were in Cedar Key a few trips back!

Nancy Ortiz said...

What in the world was that animal that wouldn't come along nicely? Inquiring minds want to know!

cndymkr / jean said...

"she's gnarly dude", while she may not have looks going for her, maybe she has a sparkling personality. LOL

Dani said...

Very cool!
When we have real bad algae blooms, does it affect them any?

amarkonmywall said...

Meddler. I remember the first time I saw horseshoe crabs up on the north Atlantic seashore and thinking how primitive they are. I've never seen one crab walking- just stationary (dead on the beach or in the mud underwater) so if you ever get a chance to video one perambulating along, please do.

Caroline said...

I love the thought of cerebral horseshoe crabs, "waiting to see if this whole evolution thing is worth pursuing."

Just the Right Size said...

Gack! I've never liked horseshoe crabs as they always reminded me of underwater cockroaches.

Shudder. I can't even think about them. Ick, ick, ick!

Miz S said...

Didja feel a little abashed when you realized what you had interrupted? I hope they weren't right at that crucial moment or anything. Sheesh.

I once spent an inordinate amount of time on a Delaware beach turning over stranded horseshoe crabs. Which I guess means I deprived some shorebirds of a meal, but on the other hand I saved some horseshoe crabs so they could live to breed another day. So I guess it balanced out.

nfmgirl said...

I used to love these when I was a kid, until I learned that they are essentially "water spiders" once you get the shell off! Ugh!

I saw a segment recently that talked about how they use the blood of the horseshoe crab in research. They collect them, bleed them, and then release them back into the wild.

I also saw a show about the campaign to "just flip 'em" (as Miz S mentions) to try to preserve the crabs.

They really are fascinating. Creepy, but fascinating.

Miz S said...

Oh, ha! I just noticed the title of this post. I GET IT!

Also, my word verification is "brood" which kind of fits the theme.

TROLL Y2K said...


Herman: What with the kids and all we just don't have enough "we time". So, I've found this secluded romantic spot where nobody will interrupt us.

Cathy: Oh, Herman! That sounds wonderful.


Cathy: OMG. Some demented cracker is FILMING us! And now he's reaching down and ......ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Floridacracker said...

Sounds good!

I remember that, they were thick that night.

The other critter in the video is a large female horseshoe crab buried in the sand. The smaller males cling to the females so they will be there when she decides to spawn.

I know, I should not judge an arthropod by it's cover. Beauty is only exoskeleton deep after all.

If you mean red tides, they must affect such a slow moving critter.

You know, I may have gotten just that video today! I haven't reviewed it yet, but I think I got a something.

Apparently, the scuttling creepy personality is just a ruse so we will underestimate their mental abilities.

Just Right,
Awww come on, tell us how you really feel.

Miz S,
LOL! You're flipping was just the right thing to do! Glad you liked the title ... they weren't actually in the throes of passion, that small male is just hanging on waiting for her to spawn.
He's stalking her.

That blood sampling is pretty neat as they do release a lot of crabs after the sample. Water spiders make them seem pretty creepy to this arachnophobe.

ROFLMAO! Too funny. I usually demonstrate better manners.

LauraHinNJ said...

Sweet... I never saw a baby horseshoe crab before.

(thinking you're very brave for poking your bare fingers into that mud!)

Doug Taron said...

Horseshoe crabs: one of the 25,376 things that I miss about the ocean.

Floridacracker said...

Not so brave, they look all scary claspy bitey underneath, but they are harmless.
I have a video of that baby you will like. I'll squeeze it in soon.

Being a bug guy, I bet most of the other 25,375 things are arthropods too!

Lynn said...

AWWWW, baby horseshow crabs in the making!