Not far from here (maybe 36 miles) is a place where miracles occur every year. On a series of beaches that stretch from the mouth of the Delaware Bay to the Atlantic shoreline (with an occasional stray found in Europe) living fossils come ashore every spring with the new and the full moons in late spring. They come in to lay eggs and fertilize them…they are horseshoe crabs.
The name of crab is a misnomer…they are actually more closely related to spiders!
(underside of a dead male)
When the female swims to shore they find the smaller males waiting for them. Males use a mitten shaped appendage to attach to the females carapace, the male(s) then ride her to the egg laying spot. After the tapioca sized eggs are laid the male fertilizes them.
Many horseshoe crabs die with this effort every year
Many birds come to this beach yearly only to feast on the horseshoe crabs while they are migrating! Experts from the Delaware Division of Wildlife estimate that as many as 30 different species of birds flock to Slaughter Beach each spring to participate
The medical profession uses an extract from the horseshoe crab’s blue, copper-based blood called lysate to test the purity of medicines. Certain properties of the shell have also been used to speed blood clotting and to make absorbable sutures.
- 19 May, 2010
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