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Horseshoe Crabs

  • Context (TH): Environmental groups have recently petitioned the U.S. government to grant endangered species protection for the American horseshoe crab.

    horseshoe crab

  • Horseshoe crabs are marine chelicerate arthropods found in shallow coastal waters on soft, sandy, or muddy bottoms.
  • They belong to the Subphylum Chelicerata, which includes animals like spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, mites, and ticks.
  • Horseshoe crabs are marine arthropods, not true crabs, but are chelicerates, closely related to arachnids like spiders, ticks, and scorpions.
  • Their segmented body, segmented limbs, and thick chitinous cuticle (exoskeleton) are typical features of arthropods.
  • They predominantly spawn (release eggs) on intertidal beaches during summer-spring high tides.
  • Horseshoe crabs are often regarded as “living fossils” due to their ancient lineage.
  • Lifespan: 20 – 100 years.
  • Conservation Status: IUCN Status: American horseshoe crab: Vulnerable, Tri-spine horseshoe crab: Endangered | WPA, 1972: Schedule IV
  • Threats: Commercial harvest for biomedical use, habitat loss.
  • The IUCN decided to observe the International Horseshoe Crab Day on 20th June.

Species and Distribution

  • American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus): Found along the eastern coast of the USA and in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Tri-spine horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus).
  • Coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas).
  • Mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda)
  • Odisha is their largest habitat in India.
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