4 Amazing Facts about the Horseshoe Crab

The horseshoe crab, or limulus polyphemus for the Latin scholars, and its ancestors have roamed the low-lying bays and marshes for hundreds of millions of years, munching on anything in their path.

Every year, instructor George Buckley takes his Sustainable Ocean Environments students to Cape Cod, where they experience coastal habitats and get up close and personal with the horseshoe crab.

In the video below, Buckley shares some amazing facts about this life-saving, albeit treacherous-looking, marine organism.

4 amazing facts about the horseshoe crab

  1. Horseshoe crabs are living fossils. How’s that for an oxymoron? Ancestors of the horseshoe crab crawled the shallow ocean waters millions of years ago. Although it has no close-living relative now, its most closely-resembling relative is the spider. Underneath the horseshoe crab’s hard shell is a creature that looks like it crawled off the set of Arachnophobia.
  2. Horseshoe crabs are lawless. Up until the 1960s, the horseshoe crab had a bounty placed on it. It was perceived as a dangerous omnivore who ate its weight in clams daily. Bounties were paid to prevent horseshoe crabs from disrupting shellfish beds. As it turns out, research by Buckley and other environmentalists proved that the horseshoe crab is an incredibly valuable organism.
  3. Horseshoe crabs protect the ecosystem. The horseshoe crab’s protein-rich eggs are one of the major food sources for shorebirds along the Atlantic Flyway, a migration route that follows the Atlantic Coast and Appalachian Mountains.
  4. Horseshoe crabs save lives. Horseshoe crab blood is used every hour of every day as the official FDA-designated test for pyogenes, endotoxins, and anything injectable, such as IV fluid, insulin, and dialysis fluid. Unlike humans, the horseshoe crab is a true blue blood because it has copper as an oxygen-carrying pigment, rather than iron.

Learn more about marine life and ecosystems

Check out the following articles and courses.

Emily replied:

Just note that you never want to pick up a horseshoe crab by its tail as the woman in the maroon raincoat is doing.  There's a major blood vessel in the tail, so if the tail breaks off, they bleed to death.

Jeremy replied:

Going on this field trip is a privilege and an opportunity to learn from a real expert. Not only enjoyable, but it also put me on a learning curve that I think will prove very valuable as I continue my studies.