This spring, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute need YOUR help to identify horseshoe crab spawning beaches throughout the state.
The best time to find spawning horseshoe crabs is around high tide, just before, during or after a full moon. The full moon conditions around March 30 and April 28 will create good conditions for viewing their spawning behavior.
Please report the number of horseshoe crabs you see and whether they are mating or not. Mating crabs "pair up," with the smaller male on top of the larger female. Other male crabs may be present around the couple. Also provide the date, time, location, habitat type and environmental conditions, such as tides and moon phase. If possible, specify roughly how many are coupled and how many are juveniles (4 inches wide or smaller).
Fossil records indicate horseshoe crabs first appeared 450 million years ago and have remained virtually unchanged since. The species is an important part of marine ecosystems; their eggs are a vital food source for animals and birds, such as the red knot whose population decline is linked to bait use of horeshoe crabs (read about that here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217151559.htm).
Horseshoe crabs are important to humans as well. For instance, in the biomedical industry, horseshoe crab blood helps save human lives. Pharmaceutical companies use horseshoe crab blood to ensure intravenous drugs and vaccine injections are bacteria-free. Scientists have found that no other test is quite as reliable as horseshoe crab blood, which clots in the presence of infectious bacteria. Also, research into horseshoe crab eyes has given scientists a greater knowledge of the functioning of human eyes. With the help of the public, FWRI's goal is to identify these beaches around the state.
Check it out on this website: http://research.myfwc.com/horseshoe_crab/. If you know of any near us, from Alligator Harbor to St. Joe, please also let us know here at the marine lab by emailing Dr. Felicia Coleman firstname.lastname@example.org