Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Influence of Environmental Factors on Spawning of the American Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus) in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire, USA


The Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire, USA is near the northern distribution limit of the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus). This estuary has few ideal beaches for spawning, yet it supports a modest population of horseshoe crabs. There is no organized monitoring program in the Great Bay Estuary, so it is unclear when and where spawning occurs. In this 2-year study (May through June, 2012 and 2013), >5,000 adult horseshoe crabs were counted at four sites in the estuary. The greatest densities of horseshoe crabs were observed at Great Bay sites in the upper, warmer reaches of the estuary. Peaks of spawning activity were not strongly correlated with the times of the new or full moons, and similar numbers of horseshoe crabs were observed mating during daytime and nighttime high tides. While many environmental factors are likely to influence the temporal and spatial patterns of spawning in this estuary, temperature appears to have the most profound impact.


Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Biological Sciences

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Estuaries and Coasts



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© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2015