Which body of water do baby Chinese horseshoe crabs love more?

Horseshoe crabs are precious marine “living fossil” creatures, and due to overfishing, environmental pollution and habitat loss, the number of Chinese horseshoe crabs has shown a “cliff-like” decline, and the protection of horseshoe crab resources and habitats is imminent.

Guangdong Marine Development Planning and Research Center, South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, Sanya Tropical Fisheries Research Institute and other research institutions jointly investigated and studied adult horseshoe crabs and intertidal juvenile horseshoe crabs along the coast of the Beibu Gulf coast of the northern South China Sea, which not only enriched the background data of Chinese horseshoe crab populations, but also provided scientific basis and theoretical support for the layout of future conservation and restoration actions of horseshoe crab resources. The results were recently published in Biodiversity.

Chinese horseshoe crab. Photo courtesy of Zhuang Lifeng, a scientific research team of Guangdong horseshoe crab protection guards

The results of the research team’s survey in 2018 and 2019 showed that the distribution of adult horseshoe crab resources in the northern waters of the South China Sea was sparse, and 18 adult Chinese horseshoe crabs were found in only 15 of the 99 sites surveyed in the two surveys, mainly concentrated in the waters of the Beibu Gulf. According to the intertidal juvenile horseshoe crab survey, the abundance of juvenile horseshoe crabs was 0.01–0.33 ind./100 m2 in 10 survey sites in 2019, and the abundance of juvenile horseshoe crabs was 0.01–0.65 ind./100 m2 in 14 survey sites in 2020, among which horseshoe crab nursery was found in the coastal waters of Hainan in Beibu Gulf. They found that the wettest season average temperature and average sea surface temperature were the main factors affecting the distribution, according to the results of the assessment of the potential habitat of the juvenile Chinese horseshoe crab.

In addition, the study also pointed out that the proportion of juvenile horseshoe crab high suitability zone in the intertidal sea area of the Beibu Gulf is 18.39%, mainly in the coastal waters of Guangxi in the Beibu Gulf, the coastal waters of Suixi County in Guangdong and the Xinying Bay in Hainan, which are worthy of key protection.

The researchers said that the next step will be to investigate the medium-suitable areas predicted by the model to further improve the background data of horseshoe crab resources and juvenile horseshoe crab habitat distribution in the Chinese waters of Beibu Gulf. In future conservation actions of horseshoe crabs, key protection should be carried out in the highly suitable areas of young horseshoe crabs, monitoring and habitat restoration should be strengthened in the mesoligible areas, and low-suitable areas, especially unsuitable areas, should be avoided as much as possible when selecting the artificial release sites of young horseshoe crabs. (Source: Hu Minqi, China Science News)

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