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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Beauty Horseshoe Crab

Beauty Of Animals | The Beauty  Horseshoe Crab | Horseshoe crabs are arthropods that live primarily in shallow ocean waters on soft sandy or muddy bottoms. They will, however, occasionally come on shore, e.g. for mating. They are commonly used as bait and in fertilizer, and in recent years there has been a decline in number of individuals, as a consequence of coastal habitat destruction in Japan and overharvesting along the east coast of North America. Tetrodotoxin may be present in the roe of species inhabiting the waters of Thailand. Horseshoe crabs are considered living fossils.

The entire body of the horseshoe crab is protected by a hard shell. They have two large compound eyes and multiple smaller simple ones atop the carapace. Beneath the carapace they look quite similar to a large spider. They have five pairs of legs for walking, swimming and moving food into the mouth. The long, straight, rigid tails can be used to flip themselves over if they are turned upside down, so a horseshoe crab with a broken tail is more susceptible to desiccation or predation.

Behind their legs, they have book gills, which exchange respiratory gases and are also occasionally used for swimming. While they can swim upside down, they usually are found on the ocean floor searching for worms and mollusks, which are their main food. They may also feed on crustaceans and even small fish. Females are larger than males; C. rotundicauda is the size of a human hand, while L. polyphemus can be up to 60 centimetres (24 in) long (including tail). The juveniles grow about 33% larger with every molt until reaching adult size.

One synapomorphy for the order Xiphosura is the fusion of opisthosomal tergites behind opercular tergite (free abdominal segments) to form a thoracetron. Fusion of opisthosomal tergites to form a thoracetron has previously been considered a characteristic of the xiphosuran superfamilies Euproopoidea and Limuloidea, but evidence was presented by Anderson & Selden that fusion also occurs in Bellinuroidea. Giribet et al. used the character in their matrix and found it to be in a synapomorphy for Limulus and Carcinoscorpius

During the breeding season, horseshoe crabs migrate to shallow coastal waters. Males select a female and cling onto her back. The female digs a hole in the sand and lays her eggs while the male fertilizes them. The female can lay between 60,000–120,000 eggs in batches of a few thousand at a time. Many shore birds eat the eggs before they hatch. The eggs take about 2 weeks to hatch. The larvae molt six times during the first year.

It has proven to be difficult to raise horseshoe crabs in captivity. There is reason to believe that mating only takes place in the presence of the sand or mud in which the horseshoe crab eggs were hatched. It is not known with certainty what in the sand is being sensed by the crabs nor how they sense it

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