Horseshoe Crabs: Living Fossils

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baby Horseshoe Crab beside a tail of a much larger Horseshoe Crab.

This past Saturday, Matthew and I had the pleasure of joining his family for a graduation celebration in Litchfield Beach, SC.  It was very welcome after my mild depression from leaving Bald Head Island.  After the festivities and church in Pawley's Island, we decided to check out the shelling on S. Litchfield Beach.  First of all, we were successful. Secondly, I was so amazed at the beauty of this beach.  We walked, jogged, and shelled Midway Inlet which faces Pawley's Island, and as somewhat of an inlet snob, I was very impressed.  Take a look at this inlet:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The picture that is at the top of the post is of a baby horseshoe crab I found on Masonboro Island in April, and tail of a much larger horseshoe crab Matthew found near at Midway Inlet.  So, I thought I would share a few facts I discovered in preparation of writing about my most recent Hunting and Gathering experience:
  • Horseshoe crabs date back 450 million years ago, which is why they are considered Living Fossils.  That's 200 million years before Dinosaurs!
  • Horseshoe crabs are used for bait and as fertilizers (although I do believe that some states have them listed on their endangered species list ie. Delaware).
  • Their tails are used to flip themselves over (they look like a weapon to me). 
  • Femailes are larger than males, and you may see them onshore mating. 
Here is another picture of one I found after Hurricane Irene on Bald Head Island at East Beach; unfortunately I came across multiple dead ones after that fitfull storm.

Horseshoe Crab floating in Banks Channel (obviously dead).

Horseshoe Crab

Baby Horseshoe Crabs (their shells are almost flaky).

Masonboro Island Horseshoe Crabs

I know I'm a dork, but what a cool specimen!  Not sure why the baby ones washed up, although they are very light, but Matthew and I found 6 of them in April washed up on the sound side of Masonboro Island.

We also found some Sea Urchins at Midway Inlet.  So fun to find such gems, and amazing that their fragile shell remained intact. 

Hunt and gather, and happy shelling!


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