Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Horseshoe Crab breeding peak at Stratford Point

High tides after a New Moon or Full Moon in late May or early June are generally the best times to witness Horseshoe Crab breeding. A recent New Moon night gave us some extreme tides at Stratford Point, and walking the extended beach during low tide I noticed a few Horseshoe Crabs slowly moving about this morning.

Closer looks revealed that several of them were hiding in the sediment.
By mid-afternoon high tide crested and I checked the beach again to see if the crabs were active now. I was not disappointed...

In fact, I have never seen this much Horseshoe Crab activity in my life! I walked the roughly 250 yards of beach on the low energy side of Stratford Point (the side facing Short Beach) and counted no less than 179 crabs! The water was quite murky and I could not see much farther than about 15 feet from the water's edge, so the actual number was likely quite a bit higher.

Many individuals were moving near the high tide line. There were many more males than females and wherever a female was present, large groups of males would pile up on top of her.

A few of the crabs seen were tagged with a round, white US Fish and Wildlife tag. These are animals that are being studied by Project Limulus in an attempt to better understand and protect these living fossils. Find out more about Horseshoe Crabs, their fascinating biology and how to help these threatened animals on the Project Limulus website. These critters have been around, virtually unchanged, for more than 300 million years -- they were laying eggs on our beaches long before dinosaurs roamed the earth. And, they have blue blood with unprecedented medical properties. It just does not get much better than that!
Check out this video of the Horseshoe Crabs I saw this afternoon and see a side of them you have probably not seen before -- it is very cool to see these elusive animals other than dead in a wrackline!

Photos and video by Twan Leenders

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