Seasonal movements of American horseshoe crabs Limulus polyphemus in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire (USA)


The goal of this study was to determine the year round movement patterns of American horseshoe crabs, Limulus polyphemus, in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire (USA) by using acoustic telemetry to track the movements of 37 adult Limulus, for periods ranging from 2 to 31 months. During the winter (December-March) horseshoe crabs moved very little. In the spring, when water temperatures exceeded 11 degrees C, horseshoe crabs moved at least 1 km further up into the estuary to shallower subtidal areas about a month prior to spawning. The mean distance traveled during spring migrations was 2.6 +/- 0.5 (n = 20) km up the estuary. Mating occurred in May and June and during these months animals spent most of their time in shallow subtidal areas adjacent to mating beaches. In the summer (July-August), animals moved 1.5 +/- 0.5 (n = 26) km down the estuary, towards the ocean, and ranged widely, using extensive portions of the estuary. In the fall (September-November) movement was more limited (0.5 +/- 0.5 km; n = 24) while animals settled into wintering locations, where they remained until spring. The mean annual linear range for all animals was 4.5 +/- 0.3 km (n = 35) and the maximum distance traveled by an individual horseshoe crab within one year was 9.2 km. There was no evidence that any of the horseshoe crabs tracked during this study left the estuary [Current Zoology 56 (5): 587-598, 2010].


Biological Sciences

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Current Zoology


Institute of Zoology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences

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© 2010 Current Zoology