June 2012 – Horseshoe Crabs Engage in Annual Rite of Spring

Each spring, a dramatic scene unfolds on our beaches as horseshoe crabs make their way from the depths of Long Island Sound to the sandy beaches to lay and fertilize their eggs. Here at Cove Island Park, the annual pilgrimage of hundreds of mating horseshoe crabs captures the imagination of students and the public who are eager to learn more about this creature.

At SoundWaters, horseshoe crabs get top billing: They have their own touch tank at the Coastal Center; they are included in education programs from pre-school to high school; and they are celebrated in May at SoundWaters annual Horseshoe Crab Day. During this year’s event, we trained more than 50 adults and children as citizen scientists, who took to the coastline and tagged the shells of more than 60 horseshoe crabs.

So far, students in SoundWaters education programs and volunteers from the area have tagged nearly 250.These include dozens of volunteers from several corporations such as Nestle Waters North America, Starwood Hotels, UBS, and XL Reinsurance. The entire volunteer corps is part of SoundWaters partnership with scientists at Project Limulus at Sacred Heart University and the CT DEEP, who have created a large data base to help track migration patterns of the crabs.

Tagging requires that volunteers record size and gender for each crab, report where and when it was found, and insert a round white plastic tag with an identification number, all of which is recorded in the data base. The tags also list an 888 telephone number. Anyone finding a tagged crab is encouraged to call the number and report where the crab was retrieved, adding vital information for the project.

Leigh Shemitz, Ph.D.
Executive Director