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Getting Nauti with the Horseshoe Crab

Getting Nauti with the Horseshoe Crab
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Getting Nauti with the Horseshoe Crab

 

You’ve got the Getting Nauti sand dollar, sea turtle hatchling and starfish, right? So, isn’t it time to up your game with a horseshoe crab?

 

What? You have no idea what we’re talking about?

 

Obviously you haven’t been reading the Getting Nauti blog, or spent any time perusing Getting Nauti’s Custom Art Pieces, because the sand dollar, sea turtle hatchling, starfish, and—now—horseshoe crab represent our latest offering . . . and they are incredibly beautiful.

Custom Art Pieces

Custom, hand made art pieces

Conceptualized, designed, and now hand crafted for Getting Nauti, these individual works of art perfectly capture the beauty of these sea creatures in fine pewter. We previously discussed the wonder of sea turtle hatchlings, starfish and sand dollars in our blog, and will now regale you with fascinating facts about the horseshoe crab.    

Custom Art Pieces - Horseshoe Crab

Custom Art Pieces - Horseshoe Crab

Wait a minute, you might be thinking, a horseshoe crab looks like a large, prehistoric, armor-plated bug; and, if you take away the shell, it looks like something out of the Alien-movie franchise. So, what’s so beautiful about that?

 

OK, so the horseshoe crab does kind of look like a giant cockroach . . . or Xenomorph face-hugger—it’s still super cool, and a work of the ocean’s incredible natural art. Oh, and you were kind of correct in your thinking, as the horseshoe crab is more closely related anthropologically to bugs than it is to crustaceans such as “true” crabs, lobster and shrimp. In fact, the horseshoe crab is not a crab at all. It is more closely related to arachnids, which include the spider and scorpion families.  

Horseshoe Crab

Horseshoe Crab

The horseshoe crab is considered a “living fossil,” because it has pretty much been hanging around in the earth’s coastal waters in its present form for about 450 million years—that is, some 200 million years before the rise of the dinosaurs. Among the larger sea life species, only the nautilus (500 million years), jellyfish (505 million), and various sea sponge (760 million) are more ancient.

 

While the armor plating, serrated rear spines, and spike-like tail suggest a dangerous creature—not to mention evil-Alien-like when viewed without the shell—horseshoe crabs are actually quite docile, and spend most of their time rooting in sand or mud for worms and mollusks, their main source of food. The spike is not even used defensively, and its only purpose seems to be to flip itself back over when one gets turned upside down by waves or other action.

Nope, the only way a horseshoe crab is going to hurt you is if you accidentally step on one in the shallows. And while that may put a small hole in your heel, chances are that your weight will do far more damage to the crab, as its shell is not all that strong.

 

Bottom line is, that like the vast majority of animal life on earth, we are far more of a threat to them than they are to us. Horseshoe crab numbers have been declining around the world for decades, with its population threatened by coastal development and overfishing.

 

“Whoa!” we can hear you thinking. No, you’re not going to find a restaurant that will serve you up a platter of what looks to be a Xenomorph face-hugger.

 

No, in the U.S. horseshoe crabs are a popular bait for eels, whelk and conch, though the horseshoe crabs are harvested in Asia for their eggs. Given the declining numbers, several states—South Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey— have imposed moratoriums and/or restrictions on horseshoe crab fishing.

 

While horseshoe crabs have been deemed to be important for overall coastal ecology health, scientists are also interested in protecting them because of the unique properties of their blue blood. The blue coloring is caused by hemocyanin, which horseshoe crabs use in place of hemoglobin. But the blood also contains amebocytes, which work similarly to white blood cells in defending against pathogens. Currently horseshoe crab blood is used to detect bacterial endotoxins in various medical applications, and researchers are developing other applications. About a half-million horseshoe crabs are caught annually for a blood drive, in which a small amount of blood is withdrawn from each one before their release back into the ocean. Most are thought to survive, with mortality related to amount of blood withdrawn and amount of time kept captive.

 

Among the more interesting things to see when observing horseshoe crabs in the wild, are their swimming methods and mating. Horseshoe crabs swim upside-down, which would seem rather counter-intuitive, and, yes, definitely looks quite odd. As for mating, well just consider it a horseshoe crab orgy. This occurs in the shallows during high tides around the new or full moon, in which you might come upon hundreds (or thousands) of horseshoe crabs going at it at the intersection of tide and beach. Truly a sight to behold, but perhaps not the best place to spread out your beach blanket.

Horseshoe Crab Mating

Horseshoe Crab Mating

And if you haven’t had the pleasure of witnessing the horseshoe crab in its natural element, you can enjoy the creature’s unique beauty with one or more of Getting Nauti’s unique, handmade, pewter horseshoe crabs          

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