- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

DURHAM, N.H. (AP) - The University of New Hampshire has made some discoveries about the spawning habits of horseshoe crabs, which are valued for their use in pharmaceutical research.

Only four species of the crabs remain. Their preservation depends upon proper management of their spawning habitat, which can be challenging due to increased development near beaches.

UNH has found that Atlantic horseshoe crabs in New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary time their annual spawning based on water temperature, not lunar cycles, as was more commonly thought.

The study could lead to changes in how monitoring surveys of the crabs are conducted on the East Coast.

The crabs are used in eye research and surgical sutures. A component of their bright blue blood is used in the pharmaceutical industry.

Each spring, Atlantic horseshoe crabs crawl up on beaches to spawn and lay eggs along the eastern seaboard and in the Great Bay Estuary.

Spawning surveys done in other states, such as Massachusetts, take place just during the full and new moons, when tides are generally at their most extreme. But UNH wondered whether other environmental factors were at play in causing peaks of spawning activity. They studied more than 5,000 spawning horseshoe crabs over two years and found that peaks of spawning activity typically coincided with spikes in the bay’s water temperature.

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