A common sight along the coastline of #SouthCarolina this time of year is the helmet-shaped shell of the Horseshoe Crab. This unusual creature, whose real name is Limilus Polyphemus, is actually not a crab at all, but closely related to spiders and other arachnids. Scientists have evidence that Horseshoe crabs have existed for millions of years and benefit from having no natural enemies. The outer shell, called a prosoma, has two eyes, but the creature is mostly nocturnal, feeding and mating in shallow ocean beachfronts. It also displays a long sharp tail, or telson, that is used primarily for flipping the crab over if waves turn it upside down in sand. The unusual look is not the only thing odd about the Horseshoe crab. It’s rare copper-based blood contains elements that are extremely important in human medicine, and are commonly used to test sterility of syringes and surgical tools. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Horseshoe Crab”
The stunning flower of this summer-blooming tree was first introduced to #Charleston in 1785, with the arrival of French botanist Andre Michaux, who brought a number of exotic species to America, including the Crepe Myrtle and Camellia. Although not a true Mimosa, the name adds flair to a tree which is actually related to soybeans, chickpeas, and peanuts, and who scientific name is a mouthful – Albizia Julibrissin. Michaux was royal gardener under Louis XVI, but instead of losing his head to the guillotine as did his former employer, he was sent by the French Revolutionary government to America as an naturalist emissary, and would find a home in Charleston for more than ten years, exploring the Southeast for other species, such as the one from the mountains he named the Rhododendron. <img.src=”Charleston Gardens” alt=”Mimosa Tree”
We have always talked about “blue bloods” here in Charleston, referring to distinguished, long-time families who have kept names and traditions intact. Yet, the truest blue-blood found in #Charleston these days are the Horseshoe Crabs floating up on area beaches and sand flats.
The Horsheshoe crab is not actually a crab or crustacean, but a sea-dwelling anomaly closer related to spiders. Its circulatory system is laden with copper that turns the crab’s blood blue, and this blue blood is very valuable to modern science for its ability to bind to harmful bacteria and help prevent toxic reactions in various medicine.
The striking feature of the Horseshoe crab is its helmet-like carapace, from which extends a fierce-looking spiked tail called the telson. What looks
dangerous is actually very harmless, as the telson is simply used by the crab for leverage when flipping over. Underneath, the Horseshoe crab has five pairs of legs, used for eating, propulsion and, in the case of the males, for grabbing and holding females during summer mating.
Although the Horseshoe crab has ten optical appendages, it really can’t see very well, as I have found personally. I joined some biologists some years back who were collecting the blue blood from Horseshoe crabs who are easiest to find during mating season when they herd by the thousands into shallow water. In the near-sighted males’ frenzy to connect, they will latch on to anything, including human feet like mine, and I spent most of the adventure pushing the herd of helmets away.<img src=”natural wildlife” alt=”Horseshoe Crab”>