Horseshoe crabs

March 18, 2023

Scientists have recently urged the Odisha government to immediately come up with a robust protection mechanism before the Horseshoe crabs (living fossil) becomes extinct due to destructive fishing practices.

About Horseshoe crabs:

  • The horseshoe crab is a marine chelicerate arthropod living in shallow coastal waters on soft sandy or muddy bottoms and spawns mostly on intertidal beaches at summer-spring high tides. 
  • The Chelicerata is a division within the Arthropoda, containing animals such as spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, mites and ticks. Like all arthropods, they have a segmented body and segmented limbs and a thick chitinous cuticle called an exoskeleton.
  • It is known as a marine ‘living fossil’.
  • There are four extant horseshoe crab species:
    • The American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) along the eastern coast of the USA and in the Gulf of Mexico,
    • The tri-spine horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus),
    • The coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas) 
    • The mangrove horseshoe crab (Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda) 
  • The last three are Indo-Pacific species found mainly in the coastal waters of India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan.    
  • Odisha is the largest habitat of horseshoe crabs in India.
  • Conservation status in India
    • Wildlife Protection Act 1972: Schedule IV
  • IUCN Status
    • American horseshoe crab: Vulnerable
    • Tri-spine horseshoe crab: Endangered
    • The two other species are not listed yet