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Horseshoe Crab Migration Arriving on Maryland Shores

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Horshoe Crab Migration

Maryland’s shores will soon welcome back the annual return of the horseshoe crab – Limulus polyphemus. This return is one of the world’s oldest and largest wildlife migrations. 

For an estimated 350 million years, these prehistoric creatures have migrated into Maryland’s coastal bays from their winter habitats. The reason…… to spawn along the coastline and subtidal habitats. Although called “crabs” they are in fact arthropods.

The height of crabs spawning revolves around late spring and early summer high tides. The Spawning culminates on or around each full and new moon in June.  On average, one spawning female horseshoe crab will deposit 20,000 eggs into the sand.  

Biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources monitor the returning horseshoe crab population for ecological and scientific research purposes.  The public is encouraged to report any spawning activity and sightings of crabs to the Horseshoe Crab Volunteer Angler Survey. 

The crab’s blue copper-based blood is critical for biomedical research. The animals are collected by specially permitted fishing operations, then have blood drawn in a biomedical facility. Once they have their blood examined, they are released back into the water. 

Horseshoe crab eggs are a natural diet for migratory shorebirds preparing to return to their summer nesting grounds.  

Despite a crab’s armor and menacing tail, they are gentle creatures that do not bite or sting. That being said, they can only survive outside of water for a short amount of time.

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