Horse Shoe Crab with Barnacles


Meet Limulus Polyphemus, the American horseshoe crab! This prehistoric creature is commonly seen here in South Florida on its beaches and salt lagoons. I’ve been fascinated with their ancient aspect since I was a child. They always did remind me of trilobites which are extinct marine arachnomorph arthropods so that makes sense. Horseshoe crabs are one of the oldest creatures on earth called “living fossils” sometimes. Crab is a bit of a misnomer as these animals are more closely related to spiders and scorpions or arachnids, than they are to crustaceans. Of the four species of horseshoe crab on earth today three species live in Southeast Asia while just one inhabits North America. See the bottom on this post for a good link to learn more about this very cool creature.

I collected this specimen in Merritt Island a couple of months ago. It was found along with a few others behind the Veteran’s Center there on the sandy shallows near some mangroves. All were dead but recently due to the good condition they were in, so not long I don’t think. Excepting, how did they become so barnacle encrusted so fast? I selected this one to take home and let dry for awhile as a good photography subject.

I started taking pictures of this specimen today on a plain platform and worked along nicely until I decided to flip it over to look and its underbelly. The carapace and legs served as an upside down bowl retaining quite a bit of sand. While I had tidied up the crab somewhat dusting off some of the sand on top, the flip spilled out sand in a starry pattern which I quite liked. The ancient arthropod seems now to transcend time sailing towards some point of origin in deep space. It looks organic and alien against the sandy heavens.

I hope you enjoy the sight of this interesting fellow and I’ll endeavor to take more time and care in removing sand and cleaning it up some more as it really is in perfect condition as a specimen.  I did notice that some of the spots of barnacle cement did fall off on their own so I do not know if the remaining barnacles will eventually separate from the carapace.







Horseshoe Crab arranged with a sand dollar and
some twigs also encrusted with barnacles from
another seaside adventure.

Learn about Horse Shoe Crabs




~ by Judy on October 7, 2018.

25 Responses to “Horse Shoe Crab with Barnacles”

  1. Here in New Jersey, we see many Horseshoe Crabs in the spring as they come ashore for their annual mating rituals. Some of them have a lot of barnacles, a testament to their long life at the bottom of the ocean. Those you have captured in your photos above look delicate and refined. Ours here look rough, wearing their barnacles like some fighters wear their scars.

    • I guess I just hadn’t seen ones with barnacles before. That defiitely hints at being kind of slow moving. Did you see different varieties of horseshoe crabs on the coast in Vietnam?

      • I never saw horseshoe crabs in Viet Nam. We seldom went to the coast and beaches, and at that time I was not into nature and wildlife. Too many other things going on.

      • Understand that for sure. I have a small selection of beach shells my father picked up for me from Go Cong province where he worked. Guess I’ll always save them but of no value to anyone else I suppose!! He was thinking of me and my attraction to shells.

  2. I knew of the horseshoes crabs of Southeast Asia; I hadn’t realised there were any on America too. JUst love those barnacles; make ‘him’ look like some gnarled old man of the sea.

    • Well (says the snooty but shallow American), you just don’t you, do you? Hey, you folks get hedgehogs and other cute creatures. I don’t think anyone has ever called a horseshoe crab cute. But they are cool.

      • Have you seen how many fleas and mites inhabit the hedgehogs bristles? Not cute. Except in cartoons. Though not as nasty as porcupines.

      • See you and raise you: we have deer ticks that spread Lyme disease.

      • I think we have it spread by water rats. At least we’re warned about nasty things caught beside water. Could be perverts though.

      • No, I’m wrong on that. The ticks are carried by badgers, foxes and … tra-tra-dah …. the cute little hedgehog

      • I think I’ve been checkmated. So ends the “Our countries are disgusting” dialogue for the day. Tune in next week when we compare gov’t bureaucracies. 😉

      • Hmm, bureaucracies, not politics, per se. Hmm, but what would a sworn recluse know about that? I might decide not to contend.

      • Well, as a “sworn recluse,” the swearing part shouldn’t be too difficult. 🙂

      • Oh, I can swear. But by swear, do we mean to seriously avow by my worst enemy’s death? Or do we mean to let rip with a stream of offensive words, mostly referring to body parts, body functions or the ‘s’ word?

      • That depends on which bureaucracy you’re dealing with.

      • Well, if it’s British bureaucracy, it probably calls for the -f- words.

      • What’s this about being a recluse who wouldn’t know bureaucracy? Gotcha!

      • But I do. occasionally, travel on buses; I hear what is said.
        BTW: Judy, we thank you for the use of your comments thread. Gosh, this is probably an entire reel taken up. Weren’t thinking of sewing on buttons, were you? 🙂

      • That’s Crispina telling me it’s time to stop wasting yours, Judy, that we are being ill-mannered guests. So, on with the day!

      • I wasn’t ticking you off, Brian; I just thought we owed Judy and apology. But, in truth, time is ticking along and I must go cook. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • I had to laugh when you guys were caught up in conversation, my phone kept dinging with alerts. Not to worry though, a pleasurable and fun thing even though I tend not to chime in with only the phone. If I could but type straight on the little screen. You guys are always welcome guests here or anywhere!

      • Well, of course, we only did it to entertain you!
        No, personally, I’d forgotten at first we were still on your site, so used to doing it on mine. But it was an amusing thread, not a nasty banter.

  3. Judy, I’m completely entranced by the arrangement you devised with the sand dollar and twig. And I think you’re exactly right about the starry sand. It does seem to move the creature into another dimension. I can imagine a story about someone — a child, perhaps? — traveling through the galaxies on the back of a magical crab. Or, perhaps, back in time.

    Anyway: this is a creature I’ve never seen, and really know nothing about. I’ll be off to check out that link, just as soon as I’ve admired the photos a bit more.

    • I went a little farther, and figured out why I’ve not seen one of these:

      “The western extent of historically recorded Horseshoe Crab breeding in the Gulf of México is the Chandeleur Islands, the eastern most barrier islands of Louisiana. Louisiana has no records of Horseshoe Crabs in their trawl surveys. There are no records of Horseshoe Crabs from the Texas trawl surveys, and only one historic record of a Horseshoe Crab collected at Padre Island in 1940-41 (Hedgpeth 1954). A small population was introduced by humans in Galveston Bay, Texas, but apparently this population has not persisted because Horseshoe Crabs are not known to currently exist in Texas.

      So there you have it!

    • That is interesting as I might have assumed that Horseshoe crabs would be found on the Gulf Coast line even in Texas. Also thanks for the comment about the starry sands. That was total serendipity and once I saw the sand spilled out that way I loved the look of it. Now the shots with the plain black have no personality to me. Thank goodness for the unplanned. Yeah when it comes to still life efforts I feel I plod more than plan. 🙂

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