Be A Citizen-Scientist: Help FWC Monitor Horseshoe Crabs
A ritual dating back millions of years takes place in spring on Florida beaches when horseshoe crabs mate. Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) want the public’s help identifying spawning sites.
Mating crabs “pair up,” with the smaller male on top of the larger female. The photo above was taken in late April last year in Fort Clinch State Park on Amelia Island, Florida. Other male crabs may also be present around the couple. Beachgoers lucky enough to spot horseshoe crabs are asked to note how many they see and whether the horseshoe crabs are mating. If possible, the observer should also count how many horseshoe crabs are mating adults and how many are juveniles (4 inches wide or smaller).
Beachgoers will likely have the best luck spotting mating horseshoe crabs around high tide, just before, during or after a new or full moon. The conditions around the new moon and a full moon during March 2016 will create ideal opportunities to view the spawning behavior of horseshoe crabs.
In addition, biologists ask observers to provide the date, time, location, habitat type and environmental conditions – such as tides and moon phase – when a sighting occurs.
Visit MyFWC.com Website To Report Sightings
The FWC asks the public to report sightings through one of several options. Go to MyFWC.com/Contact and go to “Horseshoe Crab Nesting Activity” for the “Submit a Horseshoe Crab Survey” link, then select “Florida Horseshoe Crab Spawning Beach Survey.” You can also report findings via email at [email protected] or by phone at 866-252-9326.
The survey program began in April 2002. Through 2015, the FWC had received 3,485 reports from across Florida.
Horseshoe crabs, often called “living fossils,” are an important part of the marine ecosystem. Their eggs are a food source for animals. Birds, such as red knots, rely on horseshoe crab eggs to fuel their long migrations to nesting grounds.
Horseshoe Crabs, A Medical Miracle
Horseshoe crabs have also proved valuable to human medicine. Pharmaceutical companies use horseshoe crab blood to ensure intravenous drugs and vaccine injections are bacteria-free and sterile (see lots more, “Horseshoe Crabs Are Life Saving Medical Miracle.”) Scientists are also using horseshoe crabs in cancer research.