Using Geomorphology to Assess and Enhance Beach Habitat for Horseshoe Crabs

  • Nancy L. Jackson
  • David R. Smith
  • Karl F. Nordstrom


Sandy beaches in estuaries are recognized for their importance as habitat (Nordstrom 1992; Botton et al. 1994) but this habitat is decreasing due to beach erosion and human development. Along the east coast of North America, the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is one of the most prominent species using sandy beaches and there is a need to preserve or restore beaches to enhance spawning and egg viability. Horseshoe crabs are found from Maine to the Yucatan, and closely related species are found in the Indo-Pacific region, but it is in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern United States where their abundance and their role in the ecosystem are greatest. Each spring horseshoe crabs spawn and deposit great quantities of eggs on estuarine beaches, ensuring their own reproduction and providing critical nutrition for other aquatic and terrestrial species. Several species of migratory birds feed so heavily on horseshoe crab eggs during their springtime migration that it is thought that the ultimate fate of these birds may depend on spawning horseshoe crab populations (Tsipoura and Burger 1999). Horseshoe crabs also support multi-million dollar biopharmaceutical and fishing industries. Biopharmaceutical companies collect horseshoe crab blood to derive a diagnostic product used to test for bacterial contamination of injectable drugs and implantable medical devices.


Sandy Beach Horseshoe Crab Implantable Medical Device Estuarine Beach Horseshoe Crab Population 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy L. Jackson
    • 1
  • David R. Smith
    • 2
  • Karl F. Nordstrom
    • 3
  1. 1.New Jersey Institute of TechnologyUSA
  2. 2.United States Geological SurveyUSA
  3. 3.Rutgers UniversityUSA

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