For my birthday, I was given the gift of a tattoo. The work was done by Robert Bonhomme when he was still at Brooklyn Tattoo. Robert told me that when he was a kid, his siblings would run around local beaches searching for shells, while he was always on the lookout for horseshoe crabs. That sounds like August on the East Coast to me; the shed exoskeletons of these animals, complete in every detail, are to be found up and down the seaboard then.
I’ve written about horseshoe crabs and how they may have saved your life because of LAL (limulus amebocyte lysate), the substance extracted from them and used to test medical equipment, and how we’ve scandalously allowed their numbers to dwindle precipitously through over-fishing (they are chopped up for bait) and other sins.
I may be a little bit obsessed by them, an utterly fascinating life form, key to a whole littoral foodweb and vital to human health, but I’m not the only one, since “Horseshoe Crab” is consistently one of the main search terms that finds this blog. As an example of the Horseshoe’s ecological importance, its decline is directly linked to a rapid decline in Red Knot (Calidris canutus) numbers; the U.S. subspecies of this long-distance migratory shorebird depended on the formerly bounteous production of Horseshoe Crab eggs in the Delaware Bay.