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Five For Fridays: The Horseshoe Crab

1. Not a Crab. The horseshoe crab is not a crab at all. It is actually more closely related to arachnids like spiders and scorpions.

2. The Stinger. Their tail is not a “poisonous stinger” contrary to popular myth. The tail performs rudder-like duties while exploring the ocean waters. The tail also aids in helping the arthropod back on its feet if it should find itself on its back.

3. Blue Bloods. The blood that flows in these amazing creatures does not have the iron-containing protein, hemoglobin, but instead it has hemocyanin, which contains copper. It turns a bluish-green when it oxidizes. Special cells in the blood, called amebocytes, attack pathogens. This characteristic was discovered in the late 1950’s and the medical field has been capitalizing on it. Bleeding labs have been set up and up to 600,000 crabs are bled every year. Unfortunately 10-15 percent of the crabs captured don’t survive the bleeding process. However, scientists are researching synthetic amebocytes.

4. Old. Really Old. The horseshoe crab has been on the earth about 220 million years. That’s older than dinosaurs! It has virtually remained the same ever since it first appeared.

5. Eggs. Females can lay 90,000 or more eggs per season. Only a small percentage will make it into adulthood, though eggs are an extremely vital part of the shoreline ecosystem from North Carolina and south. 11 species of migratory birds as well as sea turtles rely on the eggs as a major food source.


featured art:
“Deep Blue Limulus”
cyanotype solargram on wood-mounted paper
22×30 inches

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