"To protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."


Jun 23rd, 2013 | Category: AAE Volunteer, MDC News

horseshoe-crabs-at-MDC-Oct-2008What has 9 eyes, blue blood, 6 pairs of appendages, a hard shell, and has existed for over 400 million years? A horseshoe crab!

Horseshoe crabs are an important food source for migratory birds, their unique blood and eyes are used in biomedical research, and their shells provide a home for many small marine organisms. These ancient creatures utilize beaches throughout Florida and the east coast of the US for nesting each year. As part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) efforts to document horseshoe crab nesting and find out more about local populations, AAE volunteers adventure out in the dark to locate and measure these living fossils.

Horseshoe crabs generally nest at high tide during the full or new moon. In 2012, AAE volunteers found and measured 52 horseshoe crabs in 3 sites around New Smyrna and Edgewater. In 2013, AAE volunteers surveyed 5 sites and found 18 horseshoe crabs. During surveys, t he gender, size, and GPS location is recorded for each individual, and environmental conditions are recorded to determine factors that may influence nesting behavior.

Populations are thought to be declining in many areas, including the Indian River Lagoon, and the data collected through AAE contribute toward FWC’s goal to gain a better understanding of horseshoe crab biology and mating activities around the state.