The Plight of the Horseshoe Crab

The horseshoe crab holds a special place in many people’s hearts who live along the Atlantic Coast area of the United States, particularly the Delaware Bay. Other locations around the globe such as the Indian Ocean plus more are shown in the map below. Every Spring when these time-tested creatures show up by the thousands to spawn, it’s a sight to behold. Although, I do not live in any of these regions, the famed yearly event has reached the attention and interest of my eyes, ears and heart.





Because they date back to the Paleozoic Era over 400 million years ago, I chose to include the horseshoe crab for one of my story characters in the book I completely recently called “Under the Sea Time Forgot”. Her name is Breeva and she is a close cousin to another character in the story since both are arthropods with segmented bodies, jointed limbs and an external skeleton called an exoskeleton.

source: fossilmuseum .net

source: fossilmuseum .net



Through my research, the horseshoe crab has become close to my heart too and I found myself  feeling very sympathetic to their modern day plight. Man is going to blow it if he doesn’t wise up. An animal such as the horseshoe crab having survived millions of years through multiple mass extinctions deserves our respect. Because of over harvesting, abuse, habitat disappearance, pollution and their use as bait, the horsehoe crab is close to being on the threatened list. That would be a crime!



Help to Humans:

The horseshoe crab blood contains copper which gives it the blue color, but more important, their blood contains an ingredient used to test pharmaceutics for impurities. The industry claims this does not harm the animal, but some sources debate that.

 Interesting Facts

Horseshoe crabs are simple primitive creatures which haven’t changed much in over 400 million years.

* Science believes they have survived the eons for several reasons:

1) the size and shape of their exoskeleton shield

2) they can go a year without food

3) they adapt to high salt environments and extreme temperatures

4) their unique blood protects them from infection

* They are gentle animals, non-threatening to humans

* They can breathe in and out of water due to bi-functional book gills that resemble pages of a book

* Their thousands of eggs are vital to the survival of migratory birds and other sea animals

Horseshoe crab Global Distribution

World Map Horseshoe crab Distribution



  • Kingdom:        Animalia
  • Phylum:          Arthopoda     (Animal having an external skeleton, segmented body and jointed legs)
  • Subphylum:  Chelicerata     (Small appendages to form pincers used to feed)
  • Class:               Merostomato (Separates the Horseshoe crab from Eurypterids (extinct sea scorpions)
  • Order:              Xiphosura       (Includes extinct and modern Chelicerates)
  • Family:            Limulidae        (Modern  horseshoe crab)
  • Genera             Limulus            (Atlantic horseshoe crab)
  • Species            Polyphemus   (Atlantic horseshoe crab)

7 thoughts on “The Plight of the Horseshoe Crab

    • Hi Donna, Thanks for stopping by, Good to see you. The photo of them draining their blood is haunting isn’t it. I hope it gets around the web so that people are aware! The idea they are used for bait to catch eels is equally disturbing! The good news is there are some organizations dedicated towards their preservation. Take care, Kathi :O)

    • Hi Jody, I know what you mean by that being disturbing. I hope they know what they are doing and treat the animal with gentleness. What’s the next step in that industry, horseshoe crab farms? Thanks for stopping by and look forward to seeing more beach treasures from you! Kathi :O)

  1. Great post, what a service to highlight these marvelous creatures that are so important to the balance of life on the Delmarva Peninsula. I live in Delaware, and the University of Delaware undertakes research at the Lewes campus. During Coast Day in October I always enjoy the displays about these incredible species. But they are suffering from the confluence of climate change and human intervention. It’s heartbreaking at best.

    • It is heartbreaking and I’m glad to see there are some efforts out there from conservation organizations doing some good things. Hope it’s not to late! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Sally, Kathi :O)

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