MATING BEHAVIOR OF HORSESHOE CRABS, LIMULUS POLYPHEMUS by H. JANE BROCKMANN1) (Department of Zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, U.S.A.) (With 8 Figures) (Acc. 1-XII-1989) Every spring and summer on the new- and full-moon high tides, large numbers of horseshoe crabs come to nest on beaches along the Atlantic coast of North America, from Maine to the Yucatan (SHUSTER, 1979, 1982; RUDLOE & RUDLOE, 1981; BARLOw et al., 1986). A male Limulus locates a female offshore, grasps her with his specially modified claws, and the attached couple crawls toward the high tide line. The female digs into the sand and lays thousands of eggs which the male fertilizes exter- nally (RUDLOE, 1980; COHEN & BROCKMANN, 1983). As the tide falls, the pair leaves the beach, returning later on another high tide. Unattached males also come to these beaches and cluster around the nesting couples (RUDLOE, 1980; COHEN & BROCKMANN, 1983; BARLOW 2l al., 1986). When horseshoe crabs come ashore, they are at some risk from predation and from being stranded above the tide line (SHUSTER, 1982; BOTTON, 1989; pers. obs.). For this reason, it seems likely that unattached males would not come ashore unless they were gaining
Behaviour – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1990
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