High resolution tracking of adult horseshoe crabs Limulus polyphemus in a New Hampshire estuary using fixed array ultrasonic telemetry
Winsor H. WATSON III, Christopher C. CHABOT
D e p a r t m e n t o f B i o l o g i c a l S c i e n c e s , U n i v e r s i t y o f N e w H a m p s h i r e , D u r h a m , N H 0 3 8 2 4 , U S A
While several studies have documented the large-scale, seasonal movements of horseshoe crabs, little is known about their fine-scale, daily movement patterns. In this study we used a fixed array ultrasonic telemetry system to track the movements of 12 male and 16 female horseshoe crabs in the GreatBay estuary, New Hampshire. Data were obtained during the mating season, as well as during the remainder of the summer and fall, in the years 2005-2008. During the mating season animals were often, but not always, active during the high tides when they were approaching and leaving the spawning beaches. On average, both males and females approached mating beaches during 33% of the high tides they experienced and they most often made the transition from being inactive to active during the last two hours of an incoming tide. From April-October horseshoe crabs were significantly more active during high tide periods vs low tide periods, with no clear preference for diurnal vs nocturnal activity. After the mating season ended horseshoe crabs continued to move into shallower water at high tide and then return to deeper water at low tide. Observations by SCUBA divers suggest that during these excursions into the mudflats horseshoe crabs were digging pits in the sediment while foraging for food. Thus, the tidal rhythm of activity that has been so well documented during the mating season probably persists into the fall, and primarily involves foraging activities [Current Zoology 56 (5): 599–610, 2010].