Spectacular photos show horseshoe crabs swimming in a protected area in the Philippines, stirring up sediment and hiding entire ecosystems in their shells
- Beautiful images have captured horseshoe crabs that thrive in the Philippines
- The tiny sea creatures, which have been around for 450 million years, have recently faced overfishing and coastal development
- Your blue blood is a crucial ingredient in the development of vaccines, including for Covid-19
- Marine biologist and photographer Laurent Ballesta captured the images for National Geographic
Stunning new horseshoe crab images show the colorful sea creatures that thrive in a marine-protected part of the Philippines.
The unique creatures, which can grow to between 14 and 19 inches depending on gender, thrived in the ocean and survived all manner of cataclysmic events over the course of approximately 450 million years.
Laurent Ballesta, a marine biologist and wildlife photographer, captured the stunning photos for the August 2022 issue of National Geographic.
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Horseshoe crabs struggle with overfishing and coastal development. Pictured above is a three-spined horseshoe crab kicking up sediment along the muddy bottom of the Pangatalan Island Marine Reserve in the Philippines. After a decade of restoration work on the island’s bay, its green waters are rich in plankton and ready to welcome larger animals
Unfortunately, they now face the same dangers of modern life that other species struggle: overfishing and coastal development.
Less well known is the fact that horseshoe crabs are collected for their blue blood, which contains a clotting agent used in the development of safe vaccines – including the Covid-19 vaccinations – which conservationists hope will lead to much greater protection of habitats.
This blood is vital to humans, but its harvest often kills the creatures.
Three-spined horseshoe crabs have lost more than half their population in the last 60 years.
Horseshoe crabs have become a symbol of resilience on the Philippine island of Pangatalan. Pictured is a horseshoe crab hiding an ecosystem in its shell. The hair-like objects along its body are hydroids — tiny, fluffy invertebrates related to jellyfish — and at least eight shrimp cling to the crab’s pincers. Horseshoe crabs are relatively unexplored; Little is known about how they interact with other species
On the Philippine island of Pangatalan, the species is a symbol of nature’s resilience.
For years, the island’s 11 hectares were reportedly destroyed: trees were felled for timber, mangroves were burned for charcoal, and coral reefs were overfished with dynamite and cyanide.
For many years, the island’s 11 acres were degraded. Pictured: Golden trevally swim above a horseshoe crab hoping to catch leftovers as it digs in the mud for clams and other prey. As larger fish slowly return to the reef, horseshoe crabs may no longer dominate the ecosystem
Until 2011, these horseshoe crabs were among the largest living creatures left.
Pangatalan is now a marine reserve and is beginning to thrive again.
A shell-like horseshoe crab slides across Pangatalan reef, which has benefited from mangrove planting and the creation of artificial reefs. Horseshoe crabs, members of the class Merostomata — meaning “legs attached to the mouth” — are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than to crustaceans
National Geographic reports that efforts to restore its reefs and plant thousands of trees have resulted in numerous wildlife returning, including rare giant grouper.
Horseshoe crabs are not as well known as other endangered species, but hopefully they will cause more concern for all of nature’s creatures.
For more information about this story, see National Geographic.
Stunning horseshoe crab images were captured for National Geographic’s August issue, see above