Morgan Marine Life – The Harmless and Helpful Horseshoe Crab
It being June [this was originally posted in June 2010], it must be Horseshoe Crab time in Morgan. As a kid, these critters would just freak me out. The barnacles! That long tail thing which looked so menacing – I always pictured it going through someone’s foot. Near the shore, you would on occasion see a tail pop up above the surface as a herd of them would come in. When they were upside down, the crawly legs and pincers along with what I now know to be the “Book Gills” were just bizarre and freakish. Forget about going into the water!
Probably eight or so years ago, my family and I were at Sea World in San Diego at the Star Fish pools when I looked over in a nearby pool and saw something totally unexpected – Horseshoe Crabs. Wow, that was fantastic and an opportunity to revisit these creatures I knew as a kid. As an adult, they are more fascinating than menacing. Now, with the wonder of the Internet (some web sites are listed at the end of this posting), everyone is able to easily learn about these amazing creatures. They play such an important role in keeping Raritan Bay “alive” – despite the toll caused by man’s by-products over the last 150+ years. For example, their eggs are a source of food for birds. Being there is now a medical use for their blood, they have climbed up some on the importance level in society so now there are conservation efforts under way. Too bad that is what it takes to get people more aware of their importance. Thanks to Dave Riley from the Facebook Group “You know if you grew up in Morgan if” for this video about this.
Here are some of the things I learned from the various web sites:
- The Latin name assigned by the usual pin heads is: Limulus polyphemus
- It isn’t a crab. It is more closely related to spiders and scorpions (the explanations given are not very thorough).
- It is one of the oldest remaining species at over 200 million years old. Some sites say 300 million. Ahh, what’s a 100 million anyway?
- They have two compound eyes (each containing hundreds of lenses) which are on the top of their exoskeleton and seven simple eyes (photo sensitive) scattered around their bodies
- Their mouth is on the bottom and their legs help move food into it.
- Their blood is blue.
If I were to ever again live in Morgan, there would be a number of things I would do (or at least tell myself I would do). Firstly, during Horseshoe Crab season, I would walk the beaches and flip over any Horseshoe Crabs who were unfortunate enough to have landed upside down. I did this last summer for a number of them and like to feel I made a little difference in this big world. Note that even when they are upside down, completely dry and appear dead, quite often if you nudge them, their creepy crawlies start moving. So flip ‘em over, point them to the bay and they’ll be on their way (on their way to the bay). The second thing I tell myself I would do would be to put a big set of tires on a trash can and on weekends use it to pick up all the junk which continuously washes up; bits of broken bottles or cans, car parts, plastic parts, who knows what. My sister Linda stepped on a broken light bulb years ago and needed stitches. Amazingly last summer I found a fully intact brick on Morgan Beach from Sayre & Fisher – which was located up the RaritanRiver in Sayreville and went out of business in 1970.
If Morgan was to ever have a community mascot, serious consideration should be given to the Horseshoe Crab! I bet no one has the Horseshoe Crab as their mascot!
Some web sites:
- Video from the PBS series, Nature about the Horseshoe Crab and the Red Knot bird.
- The always amazing Wikipedia.
- Another person from New Jersey who appreciates the critters as an adult.
- Rhode Island Sea Grant does research on issues affecting coastal resources.
- Oracle Foundation’s ThinkQuest.
- Mid-AtlanticSea Grant and NOAA.
- Horseshoe Crab Anatomy.
- Invertebrate Anatomy OnLine.
- A Horseshoe Crab research project.
Originally posted on June 12, 2010.