Saturday, September 06, 2014

Horseshoe Crabaction

Trilobites and giant water scorpions, like Pterygotus, creep, crawl, and swim through my Devonian brain every time I see one of these critters.
Horseshoe crabs, (okay, you already know this, but it is obligatory), are not really crabs at all.

What they are, is a class of ancient relics that have apparently evolved to a perfect state of happiness, since they look today pretty much like they a hundred million years ago. 

I had to mess with this one while snorkeling in the Gulf recently ... I mess you know ... it's an interactive thing.
She wasn't feeling all that interactive, but I only bothered her for a few minutes to take a closer look.
The long tail is the "Telson" and it's a useful tool for flipping yourself upright after the waves have tossed you upside down with all your jiggly parts exposed to predators.
By the way, if you love shore birds, you love this animal too. The billions of eggs that horseshoe crabs lay at the high tide line on our shores are the fuel for the vast flocks of migrating shore birds arriving for the winter.

There's few things in the sea more harmless than a horseshoe crab, but they sure LOOK like a pointy, creepy, nightmare out of the movie ALIEN.

The flappityflopflappity parts in the upper part of this view are the horseshoe crabs book gills ... similar to the book lungs on Arachnids like spiders and scorpions ... a hint at the close relationship between this gal and truly creepy things like spiders and scorpions.

The jiggly parts on the ventral side include this awesome assortment of jointed appendages and those, along with that hard exoskeleton are what lump this animal into Phylum Arthropoda, a group that includes about 85+percent of all Earth species.

There are so dang many species of Arthropod...

If you were an alien biologist surveying the variety of life on Earth, you would probably conclude that there's one dominant primate species that builds lots of cool stuff and is highly intelligent, but this planet is really an Arthropod planet.

See ya around, little Limulus polyphemus.


Jim said...

Wait, What, Wait....No Recipe's for their use? Shucks!

threecollie said...

You answered a question that has ticked the back of my land lubber brain since my single trip to your amazing state when I was 20ish. Can they hurt you? good to discover that they don't. Thanks

Julie Zickefoose said...

Nice explanation of the crazy ball-jointed spike tail. Thanks also for "book gills." New to me. Didn't know spiders had them. What amazes me about horseshoe crabs is the way they cast their exoskeleton in order to grow. To slip out of all those joints and bends... They are Devo.

lisa said...


robin andrea said...

Love these photos. Life under the water is pretty spectacular!