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Greenwich Point beaches are important breeding areas for horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus).  During the high tides of May and June, hundreds of female horseshoe crabs will dig their shallow nests and lay eggs in the tidal sands at Greenwich Point.  The remainder of the year they will live in deeper water away from human contact.


The time around the full and new moon provides an opportunity to view closely a creature unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs 360 million years ago. You can easily see these prehistoric creatures as they slowly crawl at the edge of the water.  The female is larger and usually has one or more males on her back.  She hollows out a spot in the sand and deposits her eggs; the male behind her then crosses the nest and fertilizes the eggs.  Waves cover the eggs with sand for their two-week incubation period, after which tiny babies emerge and float out to sea.


Each nest contains thousands of eggs many of which will be food for birds and marine creatures that depend on their abundance; such as striped bass or summer flounder and crabs or sea turtles.


Discarded shells of smaller horseshoe crabs can be found on the beach during the summer.  A horseshoe crab will molt many times as it grows to adulthood.


Please treat these living fossils with respect.  Do not disturb them or turn them over to die.  It takes ten years for them to grow to reproductive maturity, so if you find one in distress, place it right side up at the edge of the water.  Horseshoe crabs will not bite or cause you any harm.  Their hard shell is their only defense from predators.


Horseshoe Crabs:

Prehistoric Life Comes Ashore at

Greenwich Point

by Rosemary Louden


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