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It’s Horseshoe Crab Mating Time: Become a Citizen Scientist – Report Them to FWC

Photo: horseshoe crabs with caption: after 450 mil years, love is in the air, again
Photo by Connie Mier

Florida – It’s almost spring, and around for 450 million years, it’s horseshoe crab mating time again. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) wants to learn more about these "living fossils," which have been around since before the dinosaur.

In 2015, FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and the University of Florida launched a citizen science initiative that trained volunteers to assist biologists in surveying, tagging, and re-sighting Florida's nesting horseshoe crab populations using a standardized scientific protocol. The program has been so successful that FWC is expanding its efforts statewide. 

Horseshoe crabs mate year-round, and it is most common to see mating groups along the shore in March and April. Beachgoers will likely have the best luck spotting horseshoe crabs around high tide within a few days of a new or full moon.

Reporting horseshoe crab sightings to FWC marine biologists provides important information about habitat use, population distribution, and environmental conditions for spawning. Although horseshoe crabs have existed for more than 450 million years, scientists are still learning about Florida populations. Public sighting information helps FWC researchers target spawning beaches for the Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch Program, an initiative to collect scientifically accurate data throughout the state.

If you see a horseshoe crab on its back, you can help it flip back over by gently picking it up (holding both sides of the shell), turning it over, and releasing it back into the water. Simple actions like this help conserve horseshoe crabs and the many other species that depend on them.

Reporting Sightings

FWC asks the public to report sightings through one of several options.

Visit MyFWC.com/HorseshoeCrabs and go to “Report Your Nesting Horseshoe Crab Sighting” to complete the survey.

Sightings can also be reported on the FWC Reporter application, free to download on Apple or Android smartphones or tablets from the App Store and Google Play. You can also report findings via email at Horseshoe@MyFWC.com or by phone at 866-252-9326.


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