delware environmental institute

Marine science students conduct research on horseshoe crabs

Marine science students conduct research on horseshoe crabs

During the full and new moons in the months of May and June, thousands of horseshoe crabs line Delaware Bay beaches to spawn along the shoreline. Horseshoe crabs date back 445 million years and although they resemble crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, they are more closely related to arachnids (i.e., spiders and scorpions).

The Delaware Bay has the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs in the world. They play a key role in the preservation of the Delaware Bay’s ecosystem and are an important food source for marine animals and shorebirds. The red knot, for example, relies on horseshoe crab eggs for their nutritional welfare during migration from nesting grounds in the Arctic and/or South America. Sea turtles and sharks also eat horseshoe crab eggs and larvae.

This summer, three University of Delaware students are conducting research on these “living fossils” under the supervision of Danielle Dixson, assistant professor of marine science and policy in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.