HomespacerHorseshoe Crabsspacer

jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Horseshoe Crabs 1

Length of Segment: 00:01:15

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. A walk on the beach in Florida may well give you a view of one of nature's relics, a creature that has remained essentially unchanged in appearance for more than 300 million years. An armored creature that can sometimes be a foot in diameter and have a long pointed tail that looks, well, dangerous, but it isn't. I'm speaking of the horseshoe crab. This brown to bronze creature has a hard outside covering that is smoothly curved in front in the shape of a horseshoe, and seemingly armed in back with spikes. It's a somewhat flattened animal whose legs are largely hidden beneath the flattened dome of its body. Horseshoe crabs move slowly on land and when seen, are usually in shallow water or right at the waters edge. Most often, what the beach-comber finds is the empty skin of one of these creatures. As the horseshoe crab grows, it must periodically shed its outgrown, rigid covering. It emerges as a soft-covered creature and quickly swells to its new size before its new skin hardens. During its lifetime, which scientists suspect can be as long as twenty years, a horseshoe crab undergoes sixteen molts, each time increasing its size by about 25%.

'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.

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