horseshoe crab

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horseshoe crab,

large, primitive marine arthropod of the family Limulidae, related to the spiderspider,
organism, mostly terrestrial, of the class Arachnida, order Araneae, with four pairs of legs and a two-part body consisting of a cephalothorax, or prosoma, and an unsegmented abdomen, or opisthosoma.
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 and scorpionscorpion,
any arachnid of the order Scorpionida with a hollow poisonous stinger at the tip of the tail. Scorpions vary from about 1/2 in. to about 6 in. (1–15 cm) long; most are from 1 to 3 in. (2.5–7.6 cm) long.
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 and sometimes called a king crab (a name also used for the largest of the edible true crabscrab,
crustacean with an enlarged cephalothorax covered by a broad, flat shell called the carapace. Extending from the cephalothorax are the various appendages: five pairs of legs, the first pair bearing claws (or pincers), are attached at the sides; two eyes on short, movable
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). The heavy dark brown exoskeleton, or carapace, is domed and shaped like a horseshoe. The body is divided into a broad, flattened, semicircular front part (the prosoma), a tapering middle part (the opisthosoma), and a pointed, spiky taillike part (the telson).

Horseshoe crabs have no jaws, and the mouth is flanked by a pair of pincerlike chelicera that are used to crush worms and other invertebrates taken as food. They have two compound, primary eyes and five simple, secondary eyes on top of the carapace, and two simple eyes near the mouth, under the carapace; additionally, the telson has photoreceptors. Five pairs of walking legs attached to the prosoma enable the animals to swim awkwardly or burrow through the sand or mud. They swim upside down, with the carapace forward and angled upward. The respiratory organs are called book gills and are unique to horseshoe crabs. Each book gill is made of about 100 thin leaves, or plates; these are fitted like pages of a book onto one pair of flaplike appendages on the opisthosoma. Rhythmic movement of the appendages circulates water over the gill surfaces and drives blood into and out of the gill leaves.

Horseshoe crabs first appeared in the Upper Silurian period, and a number of fossil species have been described. Four species still survive; three of these are found along the Pacific coast of Asia. The American species, Limulus polyphemus, is common along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Florida. It lives in shallow water, preferring soft or sandy bottoms, and reaches a maximum length of nearly 2 ft (61 cm). The shores of the Delaware Bay form the largest spawning ground of the species, and their eggs make the bay a critical feeding stopover for migrating shorebirds.

Horseshoe crabs are economically important for their blood, which contains amebocytes, invertebrate cells that play a role similar to white blood cells in vertebrates. An amebocyte extract is used in medical safety testing to check intravenous drugs and implants for bacterial contamination. The blood, which is blue due to the copper in hemocyanin (which, like hemoglobin, transports oxygen), is bled from harvested crabs, which are then returned to the wild, but the process kills some of the crabs. Horseshoe crabs are also used as bait in some fisheries.

Horseshoe crabs are considered living fossils; they resemble fossil trilobitestrilobite
, subphylum of the phylum Arthropoda that includes a large group of extinct marine animals that were abundant in the Paleozoic era. They represent more than half of the known fossils from the Cambrian period.
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 and eurypterids of the Paleozoic era. They are classified in the phylum ArthropodaArthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
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, subphylum ChelicerataChelicerata
, subphylum of Arthropoda, including the horseshoe crabs (order Xiphosura), the arachnids (class Arachnida), and the sea spiders (class Pycnogonida). The extinct giant water scorpions (order Eurypterida, not true scorpions) also are chelicerates.
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, class Merostomata, order Xiphosura.

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horseshoe crab

[′hȯr‚shü ‚krab]
(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for arthropods composing the subclass Xiphosurida, especially the subgroup Limulida.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
With the exception of a study by Rudloe (1983) on the mortality rates of bled animals and a study by James-Pirri et al (2012) on the impacts of bleeding on horseshoe crab orientation, all relevant studies regarding biomedical bleeding effects on horseshoe crabs have been carried out in the laboratory.
To achieve better growth of the two horseshoe crab species, some water parameters were suitably adjusted to replicate natural environmental conditions (Hu et al.
Based on the fossil record, the Atlantic horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, is one of the most ancient living organisms [35] and therefore the genome and transcriptome presented here will likely both provide clues to evolutionary divergence and lead to the identification of novel genes [36].
Previous studies of horseshoe crabs in Malaysia have indicated that their population is in decline, but few studies have assessed the population in Sabah.
One major concern for the horseshoe crab is habitat loss.
''Wellfleet is not a big player in the horseshoe crab harvest,'' town Shellfish Advisory Board Chairman Barbara Austin said.
Marine biologists had studied the unique properties of the creature's blood and immune system, and 50 years ago this year, the first academic paper was published describing a method in which horseshoe crab blood might be used to detect pyrogenic bacteria.
During the preparation of chitin, HCl solution was used to dissolve the calcium carbonate from the horseshoe crab shell.
Medical scientists use horseshoe crab blood to make sure drugs, vaccines and medical equipment are bacteria free.
In the New Zealand rainforests, he examines the elusive velvet worm as well as the reptilian tuatara; he searches for a ferreret (a Mallorcan midwife toad) in the Sierra de Tramontana in Mallorca and watches as the hardy horseshoe crab scrambles to mate in Delaware Bay.