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

Tagging horseshoe crabs in the IRL

May 4th, 2015 | Category: Blogs, Indian River Lagoon News, MDC News, Shoreline Restoration News

IMG_20150504_130853282Since mid-March, volunteers and staff from the Marine Discovery Center have been patrolling the shorelines of the northern Indian River Lagoon in search of nesting horseshoe crabs. We have canvassed several sites in Volusia County to glean more about these living fossils and how they utilize the area. IMG_20150504_131019641

Surveys are scheduled around full and new moons, and at the very peak high tides. Horseshoe crabs lay 20 – 40 nests, which contain several thousand eggs each along the beach during extreme high tides. This can mean surveying late into the night to find nesting activity, but our volunteers are up for the challenge.

This weekend the team of MDC volunteers and staff, along with a researcher from the University of Florida, searched several sites and found 4 nesting pairs and a lone male. Size measurements and descriptive data were recorded for each organism. In addition, we took genetic samples and outfitted each of the females with a tag. The tags will help us better understand whether the animals are using the same beaches year after year to lay their eggs.

IMG_20150504_131401833MDC has conducted surveys for horseshoe crabs for 4 consecutive years, providing important data to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in their efforts to identify important nesting areas throughout the state. Any horseshoe crab sightings should be reported to FWC. In addition, researchers at the University of Florida are studying the genetics and population dynamics of horseshoe crabs in this area, as very little is know about the populations in the northern IRL. Keep your eyes out for these amazing creatures while you’re out on the lagoon! IMG_20150503_211535881