Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Giant Horseshoe Crabs, or Visitors from the Paleozoic

today's trawl hauled in an insanely diverse catch--in addition to numerous white perch and striped bass, which have been our staple catch, we dragged in a heap of sea nettles (jellyfish with pink tentacles), ctenophores (comb jellies), some huge oysters, flatworms, barnacles, mussels, and what appear to be a mating pair of horseshoe crabs. The male was about a foot long from the end of his spiked tail to the apex of his face; the female was easily double that. They were wiggly and annoyed with us for obvious reasons, but we kept them in a tub separate from the other critters and they chilled out.

Crustaceans in general have always been the oddest curiosities to me, with their funny mouths and all the flaps to their bodies. Crabs are like matryoshka dolls--there's always another layer to them. Horseshoe crabs are some sort of aliens, i'm convinced. Either that or they descended from soup bowls. They're perfectly round and even have a lip around the base. Segmented, heavily armored, pointy, barnacle-covered soup bowls with at least ten pinchy, wiggly legs all up inside like the lunch special at the Beetlejuice Cafe.

We bothered them for a while and then sent them along with the Snow Goose, a crab boat from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to take them home (and out of the inner harbor where we had tied up. no sense letting these neat creatures be needlessly crushed by a dinner cruiser or a Duck.) CBF are friends of LCF who run similar trips. They motored up and borrowed a cup of salt from us this morning. We're good neighbors.


Ben said...

man, I'd forgotten what horseshoe crabs were - I was thinking of spider crabs.

horseshoe crabs are seriously weird, all evolutionary-throwbacky.

Kim said...

You should have posted a picture!

Are they really a foot long? That's insane.

Kristen said...

sorry, i didn't think to take a picture. and i didn't have my camera on me. it was awesome.