For some it’s opening day of baseball season. But for me it’s the sighting of the first horseshoe crabs of the season. I know. I’m weird.
May through June is horseshoe crab spawning season, when thousands of these living fossils come ashore to spawn and make more little horseshoe crabs. They’ve been doing it for about 455 million years, before dinosaurs were here. There are many misconceptions about the horseshoe crab, or Limulus polyphemus. First of all, they’re not crabs. They are actually more closely related to spiders than to crustaceans. I’ve always loved horseshoe crabs and yet I don’t even like spiders a little bit.
Many people mistake the horseshoe crab’s sword-like tail (telson) for a stinger, but it’s not! The telson is a survival tool, used as a lever, to help the horseshoe crab flip over when it gets tossed onto its back from waves along the shoreline. That is when I am not around to help. Spring is a busy time for me as I patrol the Smithtown Bay shoreline looking for stranded newcomers who haven’t read the tide tables yet. I toss them back into the deep water. It’s the closest I will ever come to actually doing something that makes a positive difference in a creature’s life and maybe the environment.
So just remember, for all their intimidating looks, with their five pairs of legs and 10 eyes, these creatures are totally peace loving and harmless. They’re the Tibetan Monks of the sea. Salute the limulus next time you see one along our shoreline. To learn more about the horseshoe crab, visit: http://www.sacredheart.edu/pages/13692_project_limulus.cfm