Luminations on Limulus
by Julia Jacobs
This Memorial Day I joined the masses that flocked to the beaches of the Delaware Bay. I, unlike most of the other beachgoers, was not drawn to the warm rays of sunshine, but instead to the faint shine of the almost new moon. For then the horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) emerge from the water and begin their dance. It was high tide in the dwindling light when I first saw the crabs. It was an amazing sight to see. There were tens of thousands of horseshoe crabs coming from the depths of the Delaware Bay to lay their eggs.
A female horseshoe crab reaches sexual maturity at ten years old and lays between 60,000 and 120,000 eggs during breeding season, which occurs annually. Females lay the eggs in batches of a few thousand at a time throughout the different tides. They come to shore and are met by the waiting males. Small groups are then formed that normally consist of around five male crabs and one female. This is the phenomenon I witnessed last weekend and it was incredible. As I looked at the edge of the water my eyes were met with horseshoe crabs for as far as I could see.
During the breeding process some of the crabs get flipped on their backs in the sand and are unable to right themselves. I walked along the beach admiring the amazing sight of all of these crabs and righting any capsized crabs. When people asked me what I did this Memorial Day weekend I told them ” I saved lives… horseshoe crab lives.”
Julia Jacobs is a summer intern in The Naturalist Center. She is a sophomore at North Carolina State University in the Natural Resources program and has a passion for photography.