Characteristics and Behavior:
The Atlantic Horseshoe Crab is a marine arthropod with a distinctive horseshoe-shaped carapace (shell). The carapace is hard, and they have long, pointed tails. Their body is primarily brown or greenish-gray, and they have multiple pairs of legs used for walking and swimming. These ancient creatures have been around for over 450 million years, making them a "living fossil."
- Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs are found along the Atlantic coast of North America, ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to the northern shores of the United States.
- They prefer intertidal and shallow subtidal areas, including sandy or muddy shores and estuaries, where they bury themselves in the sediment when not actively foraging.
- Florida's extensive coastline, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, provides essential habitats for Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs.
- Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs have a long lifespan of 20 to 40 years.
- Reproduction is a critical part of their life cycle. During the spring and early summer, they come ashore to spawn in massive numbers, with females laying thousands of eggs in beach nests.
- Their eggs hatch into larval forms that are a valuable food source for migratory shorebirds, especially in Delaware Bay.
- Blue Blood and Medical Uses: The horseshoe crab's blood contains a blue copper-based substance called Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL). This unique substance is used to test for bacterial contamination in medical equipment, vaccines, and other products.
- Vision in Multiple Directions: Horseshoe crabs have compound eyes that can see in almost all directions simultaneously, helping them detect potential threats and locate mates during spawning.
- Ancient Survivors: These "living fossils" have survived mass extinctions, ice ages, and major geological events, making them one of the most enduring species on Earth.