Long Island is for horseshoe crabs

Spawning horseshoe crabs © NYC Audubon


I have a great job. Evidence? I got to spend Wednesday evening with representatives from Audubon Chapters all over Long Island talking about horseshoe crabs.
Why is Audubon interested in these ancient Chelicerates, you might ask? Our local horseshoe crab species (Limulus polyphemus) is strikingly similar to fossil horseshoe crabs from over 400 million years ago. This species spawns on beaches from Maine to Florida during springtime and their eggs are an important food source for a number of migratory shorebird species. Horseshoe crabs are harvested to act as bait for eel and conch fisheries and over harvesting led to a decline in numbers, which prompted conservation efforts that seem to have helped the species start to recover. Monitoring is important to understand population numbers and how those numbers change over time.
NYC Audubon has been monitoring horseshoe crab spawning in Jamaica Bay since 2009, using a corps of dedicated citizen scientists. With the support of grant from Audubon New York, we organized Wednesday’s event to spread the word among our Audubon comrades from the island and get more of them involved in monitoring efforts that take place at sites in many of the chapters’ backyards. With understanding comes action; we are part of the network that shares data about these amazing creatures, with the goal of better protecting their spawning sites and ensuring that they are around to delight us and feed shorebirds for millennia to come.

- John Rowden


  1. Mary Picard says:

    How does horseshoe crab population in Jamaica Bay compare with population in Cape May, in terms of conservation and any other issues?

    • jrowden says:

      We are fortunate in that Jamaica Bay is part of our great urban National Park (Gateway National Recreation Area) so all wildlife is protected in the park and has been since the 1970′s. From our data the horseshoe crab population numbers in the bay appears to be fairly stable – at least since we started monitoring consistently three years ago. Conservation measures have been put in place in the Delaware Bay that seem to be helping that population recover, although more data are needed. Our horseshoe crab population is smaller than in Delaware Bay, although the density of spawning crabs on Jamaica Bay’s Plumb Beach are among the highest in the state of New York.

    • Sana says:

      There is no part of a horseshoe crab that is poiounoss. The tail is only for turning around and righting themselves when they are upside down. The blood has copper in it that turns the blood a dark steel blue color. Some people in other parts of the world do eat them, but there is just not much meat to make it worthwhile. However, the blood is worth more than gold. It is used to make medicines and test for certain diseases such as spinal mengengitis. When the blood is collected, the animal is not killed in the process. They remove about 25% of the blood and set the animal free.

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