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Tracking Horseshoe Crabs by Acoustic Telemetry

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Horseshoe crabs have been on earth since before dinosaurs, and they are an important part of the life ecosystem, as multiple marine animals, such as migratory shorebirds and Loggerhead sea turtles, depend on horseshoe crabs for food. Horseshoe crabs also play an integral role in human health advancements, as compounds in their blood can detect bacterial pathogens. These have been used in medical supplies to reduce the risk of infection. Therefore, being able to track the underwater seasonal movements of Atlantic horseshoe crabs would provide insight into their habitat use and help facilitate horseshoe crab management strategies. Justin Bopp, a SoMAS Ph.D. student, is using a method of acoustic telemetry to track horseshoe crab movements. Two technologies are required to carry out the research – a passive acoustic receiver that is placed underneath the water’s surface and “listens” for sound signals emitted by acoustic transmitters (black cylindrical device in the photo), which are attached to the shell surface of each horseshoe crab. So far, Bopp has tracked more than 80 crabs in the New York region. He hopes the research will lead to new understandings of important horseshoe crab habitats, migration patterns, and conservation practices. The research is funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation through the Ocean and Great Lakes award.

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