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A Story of a Living Fossil; the horseshoe crab named Breeva
Horseshoe Crab Websites
- Just flip 'em Program
"Just Flip em" over campaign, Tells other ways you can help the horseshoe crab cause, including where to make a donations toward conservation fund
- Horseshoe Crab (Limulidae) - Animals - A-Z Animals - Animal Facts, Information, Pictures, Videos, Re
- Horseshoe crab videos, photos and facts - Limulus polyphemus - ARKive
Includes reasons they are threatened
The following story is a pivotal chapter from the book I've written entitled "Under the Sea Time Forgot". The book is geared toward middle-grades, but crosses over to young adults; and I believe even grown ups would find it amusing and eye opening! Breeva is a prehistoric horseshoe crab from the Devonian age and one of three main characters. She has come of age and wants to fulfill her life's role to keep her species alive, only she has more in mind than any other horseshoe crab would ever imagine . . . but that's revealed in other chapters. In the book, true-to-life ancient landscapes and many other ancient animal species come alive. This particular chapter reveals much about the amazing horseshoe crab that has survived more than one planetary disaster that wiped out its counterparts. Under the Sea Time Forgot will be available for sale in 2017.
Through my research, I grew sympathetic towards the horseshoe crab's modern day plight. Here's an awesome creature that's been around for over 400 million years surviving multiple mass extinctions and now man could possibly be responsible for driving them to their doom! What a shame that would be. I have provided several great websites (above right) focused on whats' being done to help the horseshoe crab for which I encourage everyone to explore. Also, some interesting facts are listed at the end.
Brief background for the following chapter: For the very first time, Breeva has left behind her best friends, Omnu the ammonite, and her cousin, Rin the trilobite. She has no choice in the matter driven by Mother Nature to continue the cycle of life. Regardless of her friend's concern for her safety, she must leave the comfort of their ocean habitat.
Delivery On The Beach
Squeezing a few teardrops from her eyes, Breeva bid a bittersweet farewell to her two best friends while the flickering beat in her heart propelled her forward. She turned from them and bravely stepped out from the security of her saltwater home to finally fulfill her life’s maternal calling. When an ocean breeze brushed over her dripping wet shell, it caused her to shiver uncontrollably. The new sensation triggered her body to draw in a deep breath. For the first time in her life, she received a dose of pure, pristine, heavily oxygenated air entering through her miraculous bi-functional gills. As long as they were kept moist, they would support her throughout her terrestrial adventures.
All her senses were on high alert. She stood motionless and celebrated the chill of the wind, the sound of the shifting sand and the sight of the surf rushing against the shore. With her unique scent receptors, she detected the tang in the air reminiscent after a rain shower mixed with sea salt. Focusing her eyes, she peered out over the far reaching landscape dominated by rolling, sun-bleached sand hills. Hopes of spotting a special mate entered her mind, but there was not yet one in sight. She took advantage of the occasion to practice breathing the air while engrossed in the scenery. Suddenly, another sensation of shivers traveled through to her core. Not from the breeze, this time, but from the excitement she felt thinking about her calling. She had only recently reached adulthood at about the age of ten. It was an important moment in her life for which she would one day share with her closest of kin.
Breeva decided to hike across the beach to seek out an ideal nesting spot to release the eggs she was already carrying. It needed to be far enough inland to avoid being flushed out by high tide. Yet, it also needed to be close enough to shore for when her brand new hatchlings would make their mad dash to reach the safety of the water. She quickly discovered that traveling across the sinking crystal sands was far more strenuous than what she was accustomed to underwater. Working hard with her pusher legs, she inched her way closer towards the outlying tree line. Along the route, her body disappeared and reappeared between the swells. The heat from the Sun penetrated through her exoskeleton armor giving her a new sensation of deep inner warmth. While lumbering along, she stumbled across a tiny mollusk and easily scooped it up with her front feeding legs. Energized by the protein snack, she refocused her search. The first time mother-to-be left behind a pattern of wavy tracks where she had crisscrossed back and forth, unsure of where to dig for a nest.
Breeva stopped and raised her long spiked tail like a drawbridge to try and spot something. With the use of light sensors on top of it, she could detect contrasting images from a greater height that way. She spotted several dark shapes shuffling around farther down the beach. The figures were too far away to recognize, but she suspected they were probably patient males anticipating the arrival of females. Instinct led Breeva anxiously in that direction and she forgot about finding a nesting spot for the time being. Not long after, she noticed several other females flanking her with the same quest. Eager to join the males, the other lady horseshoe crabs sped past newcomer Breeva. When the two groups of arthropods finally met, Breeva observed the joy felt by the other females upon finding a mate.
The gentlemen horseshoe crabs were noticeably smaller than their counterparts. They had adapted a special claw designed to attach securely to the back of a female’s shell and be dragged along. In extreme cases, sometimes the males hitchhiked a ride behind the lady horseshoe crabs for weeks at a time. In any case, the females clearly outnumbered the males, but Breeva wasn't the worrying type and figured a special mate was out there for her somewhere. While waiting for his arrival, she used the time, as usual, to appreciate the landscape. Her multiple eyes kept being drawn upwards to marvel at the newness of the deep blue sky. She sat quietly overcome by the infinity of space it encompassed. It was always during those kinds of moments that she realized she was part of something much bigger than herself. She sensed an inner connection to the wide-openness and somehow felt comforted by it. Then out of the blue, she saw a creature spring up high off the ground and then back down; up and down it sprang to her delight.
“What a magnificent being that can swim in the sky,” she innocently thought to herself.
She watched it yo-yo up and down landing from rock to rock, never staying in one place for very long. The creature was a primitive arthropod insect. Its most dominant trait was an iridescent shimmer radiating off its body. The bright reflection momentarily blinded her, especially her most sensitive set of compound eyes. It held her attention until it pranced farther down the stretch of shoreline and gradually out of sight. It led her gaze back out over the expansion of the ocean and then another new awareness dawned upon her. She, at long last, understood the immensity of her own ocean home habitat by how it mimicked the vastness of the sky. Omnu and Rin entered her procession of thoughts and she wondered where they might be in all that aqua blue water. It evoked in her another moment of silent harmony.
A lone figure appeared in the corner of her eye and brought her focus back to her present quest. She spun around for a better look. The dark figure seemed to be approaching straight in her direction. Could this be her special mate she wondered. Breeva wanted to be ready for his arrival and resumed her search for the perfect nesting spot. She finally settled on a suitable place and began to scoop out a sandpit with her claws and bowl shaped shell. After some steady work, a concave nest started to take form. She was concentrating so hard on her digging that she had forgotten all about the male until he had almost caught up to her. Breeva was relieved to finally fix her eyes upon her male companion, just like the other females had earlier. At last, the time had arrived when Breeva and her mate would fulfill their vital roles of continuing the cycle of life.
Following their brief acquaintance, instinct took over and Breeva proceeded to deposit approximately a thousand, pearly green eggs into the hollowed out nest. Her new companion, Jolro, fertilized them thereafter. She covered the fertilized eggs with several inches of moist sand in order to keep them cool and protected. Next, with Jolro attached to the back of her shell using his clamper claw, Breeva towed him along heading for the second site to deposit yet another litter of offspring, and another one after that.
Evening took hold and a full moon cast a bright light across the twinkling sea. It illuminated the breaker waves splashing over hundreds of horseshoe crabs drawn together by Mother Nature. Before the evening's close, the couple finished the daunting task of depositing and fertilizing thousands of eggs into several separate nests. In the process, time didn't allow the two arthropods to exchange much conversation. All their energy was focused on their calling.
When morning broke, Breeva awoke very pleased with how well their spawning events had panned out. She felt extremely proud of herself and Jolro. He had stayed with her throughout the entire process and a special bond had developed between them. They talked over their experience all the morning hours before departing back into the ocean depths. Both would return to the beach during the following full moon to deposit yet another litter of young. She hoped Jolro would be her special mate when that moment arrived.
Interesting Horseshoe Crab Facts
Horseshoe crabs are simple primitive creatures which haven't changed much in over 400 million years.
Science believes they have survived the eons for several reasons; the shape and size of their exoskeleton shield . . . they can go a year without food . . . they adapt to high salt environments and extreme temperatures . . . their unique blood protects them from infection.
The horseshoe crab is not a crab, but more closely related to spiders and scorpions and prehistoric trilobites; they are in a class of their own.
They are gentle animals, non-threatening to humans.
They can breathe in and out of water due to bi-functional book gills that resemble pages of a book.
Their thousands of eggs are vital to the survival of migratory birds and other sea animals.
Horseshoe crab blood is blue due to the copper in it.
Science has discovered a way to help humans using an element in their blood to test pharmaceuticals.
Abuse * Used as Bait * Over Harvesting * Pollution * Shrinking Environment
I hope you enjoyed the story of Breeva the horseshoe crab and learned something about her species. Check out the website listed in the beginning of this essay to see how we can all help ensure their survival. The horseshoe crab is truly a special creature!
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