What are those prehistoric looking sea critters?

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Horseshoe Crab Central! When Kayaking or boating on the Estero Bay near Fort Myers Beach with Good Time Charters, keep an eye out for the prehistoric looking critter known as the Horseshoe crab.  Horseshoe crabs enjoy hanging out in sandy, mucky bottoms. There is only one species in North America called Limulus polyphemus. They are found along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts from Maine to Mexico.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, horseshoe crabs can be considered living fossils because their ancestors go back almost 200 million years before dinosaurs existed.  They look pretty much what they did back in pre-historic times with only slight variations in body shape.

Most people think that horseshoe crabs are truly crabs.  They are not!  They are more closely related to arachnids (a group that includes spiders and scorpions) than to crustaceans (shrimp, crabs and lobsters).

You might also catch a glimpse of them when you are looking for shells during our Coastal Sealife Dolphin and Wildlife Cruise. When you see a horseshoe crab swimming  or resting on a muddy bottom, don’t be concerned they are harmless.  That pointed tail is called the telson and is used primarily to turn themselves upright if they are accidentally flipped over and for steering.

In mid-March through the end of April, you may also see them nesting.  Horseshoe crabs are known for hanging out in clusters in sandy areas of Fort Myers Beach and other Southwest Florida beaches.   The males link up with females at the shoreline using their special modified front claws to crawl to the beach to fertilize her eggs.

In the view of Captain Cristina Denegre, Good Times Charter Owner and biologist, the crabs play an important role in the Estero Bay ecosystem because most nesting birds feed off the eggs layed by the horseshoe crabs. Our loggerhead sea turtles find the horseshoe crab to be a tasty snack as well. They are a very important part of the food chain here in the estuary.

You can learn more about horseshoe crabs and other types of sea life from our master naturalists at Good Time Charters. We are always on hand to answer questions during our tours. For more information call 239 218-8014.