June 20: International Horseshoe Crab Day

Published: June 22, 2020

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) observed the first International Horseshoe Crab Day on June 20, 2020.

Highlights

The aim of the observance was to create awareness about the ancient creatures and also help in their conservation.

Why the Observance?

The Horseshoe crabs have existed since the times of dinosaurs. They are important ecosystem predators and engineers of small organisms. They main ecological function is to lay millions of eggs on the beaches. The eggs act as good source of food for the shorebirds, fish. The hard shell of the crab acts as a micro habitat to species such as mussels, snails and mud crabs.

Thus, the Horseshoe crabs serve as a critical link to the biodiversity and also hold cultural importance all over the world.

Threats

The crabs are used for biomedical testing, bait and food. They lose their habitats due to coastal developments. Also, poachers kill them for their meat. The rise in sea level is affecting their spawning habitats. The shell of the crab is used as medicine to treat scars.

About Horseshoe Crab

The crab lives in shallow coastal waters. They are marine chelicerate arthropods. They usually spawn in inter tidal beaches during summer spring high tides. Spawning is depositing or releasing eggs.

The Horseshoe crabs are regarded as “living fossils”.

Conservation

The horseshoe crabs are protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. According to the act, killing and catching of a horseshoe crab is an offence.

There are four Horseshoe crab species as follows

  • American Horseshoe Crab
    • It lives along the eastern coast of USA
    • It is classified as Vulnerable under IUCN.
  • Tri-spine Horseshoe crab: Endangered under IUCN
  • Coastal Horseshoe crab: Not Listed in IUCN
  • Mangrove Horseshoe crab: Not listed in IUCN

Horseshoe Crabs in India

India is a habitat to three of the horseshoe crabs namely Tri-spine horseshoe crab, mangrove horseshoe crab and coastal horseshoe crab. Odisha is the biggest habitat of the horseshoe crabs in India.

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