New York City's Living Marine Fossils

Horseshoe Crabs 


Beginning in the spring of 2009, the CMRC’s Horseshoe Crab Education Program will work with four New York City elementary schools to provide high-quality environmental science education on horseshoe crabs and host family education programs at local beaches. 

Why horseshoe crabs? Horseshoe crabs are a critical link to other ecosystems and the migration of birds in the western hemisphere.  Each female crab provides thousands of eggs consumed by migratory birds traveling the Atlantic Flyway -- eggs that are fuel for an increasingly tenuous journey made by millions of birds each year.

The horseshoe crab is an important species, as it is both adaptable and predates most animal species and flying insects.  Horseshoe crabs are living fossils, having evolved in the Paleozoic era, 548 to 243 million years ago.  At the end of the Paleozoic era, horseshoe crabs had survived while many other species became extinct, including trilobites – a closely related species, along with 50% of all animal families, 95% of all marine species and many trees.   Migratory birds traveling to and from the tropics along the Atlantic Flyway benefit from the millennia-long survival of the horseshoe crab as the horseshoe crab is fecund, providing thousands of high-protein eggs which fuel the long journeys of migrating birds.

These arachnid-like creatures are a good measure of coastal health as well, as their presence is an indicator of general aquatic health and the preservation, of coastal habitat.  The horseshoe crab holds a unique place in natural history and forms integral links within the broader ecological system.  Humans benefit directly from horseshoe crabs; their blood contains highly sensitive chemicals that are used to test the purity of drugs before they are used as medical treatments.  We also benefit, particularly children, from the learning experience associated with picking up, touching and observing, what is an extant, completely harmless dinosaur-like marine spider, alive and living in New York and New Jersey coastal waters.

The tactile and safe learning experience associated with handling and observing an extant, completely harmless dinosaur-like marine spider alive and living in New York and New Jersey coastal waters, is a transformative one.  The CMRC will provide this experience to children at no cost to their schools.

How You Can Help:

Your donation of $500 purchases one life-like model of a horseshoe crab for continuous use by CMRC and teachers in our region's classrooms.

Funding Needs: 

The CMRC is raising significant funds to ensure this program reaches students throughout the region through the hiring of education program staff and acquiring educational materials.


Illustration of the top of a horseshoe crab


Illustration of underside of a horseshoe crab.