Get Involved in Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch

What is a horseshoe crab?

Horseshoe crabs are strange animals. They are prehistoric-looking and have not changed in appearance in 200 million years. The oldest horseshoe crab fossil ever found dated to 445 million years ago. Because they are so unchanged, they are widely known as “living fossils”.

Horseshoe crabs on the beach. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

However, they are not crabs at all (despite what their common name implies). They are actually more closely related to spiders. They are arthropods, which includes horseshoe crabs, insects, spiders, and other crustaceans. Like other arthropods, they have many legs and their body is divided into three major parts. Their bodies are organized very uniquely with the mouth in the middle of their 5 pairs of jointed legs. They move their legs in order to chew their food. Their tail, called a telson, is long and sharp at the end. People often think that their telson is a stinger, but it’s not. They use their tail to flip themselves over if they get stuck upside down. You should never pick a horseshoe crab up by the tail because it can cause harm to them.

Horseshoe crabs are harmless to humans. In fact, you can thank horseshoe crabs for helping to prevent you from getting an infection. If you’ve ever had surgery, received a vaccine, or had fluids administered by a doctor, a horseshoe crab’s blood has helped you. The biomedical industry uses horseshoe crab blood. Horseshoe crabs have blue copper-based blood that reacts when it encounters bacteria. The blood is used to check that products placed inside the human body are sterile and won’t cause infections.

Where do you find horseshoe crabs?

Horseshoe crabs are found in nearshore waters from Maine to Florida and across the Gulf of Mexico. They are often a common sight on sandy beaches. They come ashore to mate along beaches in the spring and fall months. You often see a larger female with one male attached and sometimes “satellite” males trying to attach themselves to her. They are waiting for her to lay her eggs in the sand so they can fertilize them. This behavior has evolved to encourage genetic diversity for the fertilized eggs, which hatch about two weeks later.

Horseshoe crab on the beach. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

This behavior also makes studying them and their population numbers fairly easy because researchers can walk along beaches where they are nesting and count individuals. They can easily be captured and tagged for mark-recapture studies. Unfortunately, there are no consistent scientific studies done here in Florida. For this reason, we don’t have a good understanding of the status of their population in Florida. Nor do we have basic information about their abundance or movement patterns from one area to another. In the Indian River Lagoon, there are only a handful of studies on horseshoe crabs.

Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch

The Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch citizen science program was created because of the lack of knowledge about the horseshoe crab population in Florida. The program started in Cedar Key by the University of Florida (Department of Biology, UF IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station, and Florida Sea Grant) and FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in 2015. The program takes advantage of the beach nesting behavior of horseshoe crabs to collect valuable information. Volunteers walk a known section of beach at predetermined times and count the number of horseshoe crab mating groups observed. A small subset of crabs are collected, measured, tagged with a small numbered disc, and released back into the wild. Reports of tagged horseshoe crabs help track crab movements and reappearances on beaches.

Taking measurements and data of the horseshoe crab. Photo by Holly Abeels.

This citizen science program is now coming to the Indian River Lagoon. If you see horseshoe crabs along the beach, please report these sightings to FWC via their website or through their FWC Reporter mobile app.

We need volunteers interested in walking designated beaches in the Indian River Lagoon, counting horseshoe crabs, collecting and tagging a subset of those crabs, and inputting the data for FWC.

If you’re interested in being part of the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch citizen science program in Brevard County please contact Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent for UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County at habeels@ufl.edu or 321-349-2333. If you’re interested in being part of the program in Indian River, St Lucie, or Martin Counties please contact Kirk Fusco, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve at Kirk.Fusco@FloridaDEP.gov or 772-429-2995. We will be holding training workshops in January and starting field work in February.

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Posted: November 13, 2018


Category: Coasts & Marine, Natural Resources, Wildlife
Tags: Environment, Florida Sea Grant, Horseshoe Crabs, Indian River Lagoon


Comments:

Morgan

March 29, 2022

Hi Laura, Currently, we do not have any permaculture classes. Our horticulture agent, Sally, might have some information on it though. You can contact her at sasc@ufl.edu

Laura Branton
March 27, 2022

Do you have classes regarding Perma Culture? My daughter-in-law was talking to me about this and I am hoping you have available information. Thanks

Morgan

February 10, 2022

Hello, We have another pressure canning class coming up on March 5 from 10 am to 12 pm. You can find it on our Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ufifas-extension-brevard-county-18496539748

Flo Fernandez
February 10, 2022

I was wondering if another pressure canning class is coming up? I missed the one this month unfortunately and am very interested in learning this skill!

Morgan

November 17, 2021

Hi Dianna, I have a post scheduled to go out on 11/24. If you would like to receive our class list sooner, we have a newsletter that goes out on the 3rd Monday of every month! You can subscribe to it here: https://bit.ly/3CxvPY4

Dianna
November 16, 2021

When will they post December classes?

Laura Dearinger
October 12, 2021

Dear Dr. Wells, I admire your work to find the happy environmentally friendly balance of natural ecosystems within golf courses. We have found many supporters who wish to reinvent the abandoned , privately -owned West End golf course on Newberry Road in Alachua County, and are reaching out to our County government for their support as well. The golf course was the core of our West End Village neighborhood ; we have a dream to revitalize it. Looking forward to contacting you at a later time! Thank you.

Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

October 11, 2021

Hi Laura, Thanks for your comment! I missed it earlier, I apologize. Please feel free to quote me and reach out if you have any questions. Several of our golf courses have become certified with Audubon International for their conservation efforts! I also have an article you may be interested in here, page 16: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ftga.org/resource/resmgr/turf_digest/2019/ftd_septoct_2019.pdf

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I am a huge fan of Greenspaces/ Golf Courses. I love the statement you make underlining the importance of golfcourse superintendents as “stewards of the land. “May I please quote you ? I’m writing our commissioners to help save an abandoned for sale golf course! I love seeing deer, red tailed hawks, Sandhill Cranes on this former course. I’ve also seen a pair of pileated woodpeckers, a flock of egrets, and bluebirds.

Morgan

August 23, 2021

Hello Michael, It's possible that the class in Cocoa is already full. Please contact the instructor, Gus Koerner, at (321) 633-1702 ext. 52320 or email him at gkoerner@ufl.edu for further information.

Michael E Focht
August 21, 2021

Hello! the Hunter Safety Class is NOT listed on the FWC class list.. My son needs the class, it has been canceled twice..he is signed up for the 3 hour virutal on AUG 24th, but if this cancels, we would like to do the 28th class in Cocoa.. Please advise! Thank YOU! Mike

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Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

July 7, 2021

Hi Chris, Yes, these are "Florida-Friendly" plants, meaning they are low impact, environmentally friendly, use less water and reduce pollutant loading to Florida waters. Learn more here: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/ Thanks! Bonnie

Chris Harmon
July 1, 2021

Hello, I just want to clarify... Under "Florida Friendly" cloumn, are you saying the plants do well in the Florida environment OR the plants are dangerous because of the ability to spread and damage the environment like Kudzu in Georgia? I live in Boca Raton, in Palm Beach County, which I believe is Zone 10.

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January 6, 2021

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bacarasite
November 27, 2020

What's up colleagues, nice article and nice urging commented at this place, I am truly enjoying by these.

Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

November 9, 2020

Hi Mia, the Duval County Extension office should be able to help you with that question. Dr. Kerr is the commercial horticulture agent there, his email is CKERR@COJ.NET. Thanks for reading!

Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

November 9, 2020

Awesome Frank, will do! Thanks so much for the suggestion. :)

Frank Galdo
November 9, 2020

Please, please, please add the FL native climbing aster! (Symphyotrichum carolinianum) The incredible explosion of fragrant purple flowers arrives in November & December, at a point when many other FL wildflowers are fading. To me, the flowers smell like sweet, warm sugar cookies! It's always loaded with pollinators too... Perfect for wetter soils - along the edges of ponds, swales, etc. Thanks, Frank Galdo - Program Coordinator, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County Pics & info: https://flawildflowers.org/flower-friday-symphyotrichum-carolinianum/ http://hawthornhillwildflowers.blogspot.com/2009/11/climbing-aster-symphyotrichum.html https://twitter.com/PascoExt/status/1243217796705763329

Mia
June 28, 2020

These plants are very hard to find for purchase. Do you know anywhere in the Jax area? Thank you

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June 11, 2020

It as hard to find experienced people in this particular topic, however, you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

Gus Koerner

May 13, 2020

Thanks and you're welcome! - gus

Gus Koerner

May 13, 2020

Thanks for your comments! There are so many math and physics principles practiced and demonstrated in archery! If an instructor can remember to point them out while the kids are on the range, he or she can really reinforce what is taught in the classroom. All the instructor has to do, is find the appropriate teachable moment and take advantage of it. gus

Graham Mitchell
May 8, 2020

This is a great use of math an angles to help improve your archery shooting range. When teaching a beginner having them line up a 90 degree angle will be helpful for them to take the same stance each time. Thank you

Diesel Wold
May 6, 2020

Informative, Thanks for this.

Gus Koerner

April 30, 2020

Thanks for your comments! I feel the same way. - gus

Alamin
April 30, 2020

fishing is a awesome hobbit. I want fishing again and again.

Gus Koerner

March 26, 2020

Hey Steven! Thanks for your comment. I suggest you get into hunting with a multi-tiered approach, making sure you are comfortable in the woods, you know the laws and regulations of what you plan on hunting, and starting small - with small game that is. Hunting, which includes dispatching small game takes the same skills as hunting large game but with less input and intensity. If you can successfully bag your first raccoon (for example) and process it all the way to the table, you'll be well on your way to hunting larger game as you gain experience. If you haven't taken it, or done it lately, enroll in your local Hunter Safety class by your state game division. They can help. Go out into the woods and scout around. Go to the range and perfect your skills. All these things will not only prepare you for hunting, but will help you decide IF and how you want to go ahead. I hope that helps! - gus

Steven Rinella
March 25, 2020

Great share. I am new in hunting. Should I start with deer hunting? What your recommandation?

Gus Koerner

July 8, 2019

I'm glad you enjoyed the article! gus

Gus Koerner

June 19, 2019

Great to hear Joe! Send me a picture of it. gkoerner@ufl.edu I'd love to see it! gus

Joe Pavlik
May 12, 2019

Haha I did it I made awing bone call . Thanks for the information .

Saptarshi Bhattacharya
March 6, 2019

Thank you for your nice blog post. Keep it up.

Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

March 5, 2019

Thank you very much, Gary! I have been impressed with the BMP efforts of the Brevard turf professionals I've visited and will most definitely be helping with the implementation of new programs and certifications in environmental stewardship. Stay tuned!

Basudeb Das
March 5, 2019

Thank you for your post. Keep it up.

Gary Chaney
March 4, 2019

This is a great article Bonnie. Thank you very much for taking the time to visit the courses and talk to the superintendents. I am sure that you were pleased with the knowledge and effort they use daily to be stewards of the environment. Many are BMP Certified but we need more to get this certification and implement new programs to make the best agronomic and environmental decisions on a daily basis.

Holly Abeels

February 18, 2019

The counties currently involved in the FL Horseshoe Crab Watch Program are Franklin, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Hernando, Pinellas, Manatee, Martin, Indian River, Brevard, Volusia, and Nassau. There are some counties that will be incorporated in the future including those in Southwest Florida (and Collier county). Here on the East Coast of Florida we see horseshoe crabs nesting between December-May depending on where you are. On the Gulf Coast of Florida they see them nesting in the spring and fall (Feb-May and Aug-Oct). It's unknown what the nesting time is in southwest Florida. If you ever do see horseshoe crabs please report them to the FWC Wildlife Hotline for horseshoe crabs at this link: https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/horseshoe-crabs/ (click on Report Your Nesting Horseshoe Crab Sighting). You can also download the free FWC Reporter App and report sightings through your mobile device (https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/sighting-app/).

Kenneth S. Ridlon
February 17, 2019

Is any yagging being done in Collier County? When is the best timr of yr to watch for mating crabs? Several yrs ago I was doing daily searches at Tigertail beach/lagoon. Found a good number that I sexed, measured etc. Never knrw where to send tbe data. Any contact person for this area?

Holly Abeels

December 3, 2018

Thanks Michael. I've put you down on my list and will be in touch once training dates are set.

Holly Abeels

December 3, 2018

Thanks Ivan. I've put you down on my list and will be in touch once training dates are set.

Linda Seals

November 29, 2018

Hi Erin, unfortunately I do not have another one planned. I will keep your email address and let you know if we have another one.

Linda Seals

November 29, 2018

Hi Cynthia, this class was in August. I don't have another one planned.

Ivan green
November 26, 2018

I'm in for a mid Brevard county location.

Cynthia Adkins
November 14, 2018

Would you please provide me with more information, like date and cost?

Michael Lee
November 13, 2018

I'm interested and can work for Kirk in Indian River County or Holly in mid to south Brevard.

maghfirah pustaka
November 5, 2018

thank you for the info, very interesting

Erin Carrigan
October 17, 2018

Is this going to be offered anytime soon? I was registered for a previous course but it was cancelled. Thank you. Erin

Gus Koerner

October 11, 2018

Thank you Mary. Feel free to call me anytime to discuss youth shooting sports in our region. Gus 321-633-1702, Ext. 52320

Mary Watkins
September 27, 2018

Gus, We shoot lever action smallbore and pistol cartridge rifle metallic silhouette at Seminole County Gun and archery and Chuluota Sportsmans Club on second Saturday and second Sunday of each month. Also smallbore and Hunters Pistol at Chuluota SC. Mary Watkins

Bradley T.
June 14, 2018

We have just posted an article about the Tegu Lizard being spotted in Brevard County.

Randy Moore
May 22, 2018

Thanks Mr. Gus!

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