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Pensacola Bay Horseshoe Crab Hunt – Fall 2021

Horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) were once found in the Pensacola Bay System and then disappeared.  The first thought to the cause of their decline would be the decline in water quality and/or loss of habitat.  These ancient creatures, which resemble armored stingrays but are actually related to spider and scorpions, plow through the sediments of both the estuaries and the open Gulf searching for invertebrates to feed on.

The large female horseshoe crab and several smaller males on shore during breeding.
Photo: Florida Sea Grant

But in the spring and fall of each year, they move into the bays to seek mates and beaches for the breeding season.  Females are much larger and approach the beach during the spring high tides of the spring and fall to lay their eggs at the wash zone of the sandy beach.  The smaller males use a modified appendage that looks like a hook to hold on to her and “rides her back” into the beach as well.  Many times, several other males will follow the pair to the shore, these males are known as satellites.  Once she begins to lay her eggs, all the males compete to fertilize them with their sperm.  The developing young remain in the sand until the next spring tide arrives, at which time they hatch.

 

It is exciting to see the return of these creatures to our bay and give sign that maybe things are improving here.  We are looking for citizen science volunteers to walk potential nesting beaches during the months of October, November, and December searching for nesting activity.  If you are interested in participating you can contact Escambia County Sea Grant Agent Rick O’Connor to sign up for one of the beaches, a list of spring high tides for the 2021 fall season, a copy of the data sheet, and a short training on what to do and how to do it.  You can contact Rick at roc1@ufl.edu.  More than one volunteer can survey the same beach.

 

Beaches to Be Surveyed 

Pensacola Beach Area Perdido Key Area
Park West Siguenza Cove at Johnson’s Beach
Little Sabine Galvez Landing
Morgan Park Big Lagoon State Park
Sharp Point  
Mom’s Beach  
Big Sabine  
Naval Live Oaks  

 

Spring High Tides (based on time at Ft. McRee)

October November December
Oct 1 – 5:29am Nov 6 – 10:25pm Dec 3 – 7:43pm
Oct 2 – 6:38am Nov 7 – 10:20pm Dec 4 – 8:33pm
Oct 9 – 11:31pm Nov 8 – 11:22pm Dec 5 – 9:29pm
Oct 10 – no high tide this day Nov 9 – no high tide this day Dec 6 – 10:27pm
Oct 11 – 12:28am Nov 10 – 12:27am Dec 7 – 11:23pm
Oct 12 – 1:36am Nov 18 – 7:57pm Dec 17 – 7:30pm
Oct 13 – 2:55am Nov 19 – 8:23pm Dec 18 – 8:09pm
Oct 23 10:53pm Nov 20 – 8:55pm Dec 19 – 8:50pm
Oct 24 – 11:30pm Nov 21 – 9:33pm Dec 20 – 9:31pm
Oct 25 – no high tide this day Nov 22 – 10:16pm Dec 21 – 10:10pm
Oct 26 – 12:17am Nov 23 – 11:00pm Dec 22 – 10:46pm
Oct 27 – 1:10am Nov 24 – 11:43pm Dec 23 – 11:119pm
Oct 28 – 2:09am    
Oct 29 – 3:10am