Monday, May 12, 2014

Blue Bloods

According to Ronald G. Hellman and Janis A. Roze, in their paper, The Resilient Horseshoe Crab: Guardian of Time, "On one of his expeditions to the New World, Sir Walter Raleigh came across strange creatures on the coast of North Carolina, and named them ‘horseshoe crabs’" (

Horseshoe crabs (in spite of their name, these creatures are marine arthropods, not true crabs) spawn in the spring. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, "Spawning usually coincides with the high tide during the full and new moon. Breeding activity is consistently higher during the full moon than the new moon and is also greater during the night."

Although Delaware Bay hosts the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs in the world, North Carolina has its fair share of these "creatures from the past."

The April 14, 2014 issue of The New Yorker has an informative article titled Blue Bloods about horseshoe crabs. The author, Ian Frazier, writes, "Horseshoe-crab blood is blue. I had never seen it before; unless the heart is pierced, the structure of the animal's anatomy generally keeps it from serious bleeding. The blue comes from hemocyanin, a copper-containing protein that transports oxygen in the blood, like the iron-containing hemoglobin in red blood."

Fascinating creatures, these horseshoe crabs! Take a few moments to appreciate these amazing animals the next time you spy one washed up on the beach...or encounter one in Pamlico Sound.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of traveling to the island on Frazier Peele's ferry in 1951. You can read it here:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:38 AM

    Horseshoe crabs molt. It can be rather disturbing to find a cluster of shells floating in the water and think the worst. i.e. a crime against nature. Just little crabs getting bigger.