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Limulus polyphemus   (Linnaeus, 1758)

horseshoe crab

Native range | All suitable habitat | Point map | Year 2100
This map was computer-generated and has not yet been reviewed.
Limulus polyphemus   AquaMaps   Data sources: GBIF OBIS
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Image of Limulus polyphemus (horseshoe crab)
Picture by Harvey-Clark, Chris

Classification Common names | Synonyms | CoL | ITIS | WoRMS

Merostomata | Xiphosura | Limulidae

Main reference References | Biblio | Coordinator | Collaborators

Lee, C.N. and B. Morton. 2005. (Ref. 1131)

Size / Weight / Age

Max length : 60.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 82); max. published weight: 1.8 kg (Ref. 82); max. reported age: 20 years (Ref. 99652)


Benthic; depth range 3 - 11 m (Ref. 76)

Climate / Range


Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Introductions

Western Atlantic.

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

The males are approximately 1/3 the size of the females (sexual dimorphism) (Ref. 83). Lives in shallow waters, with sandy or muddy bottoms (Ref. 76). Found in intertidal and offshore areas (Ref. 1131). The horseshoe crab feeds at night on polychaete worms such as Cerebratulus, Nereis, and Cistenides (Ref. 76, 77), small molluscs, and seaweed (algae) found in the sandy ocean bottom (Ref. 76). Food is picked up by the chelicerae and passed back to the bristle bases, where it is "chewed." The food is then moved forward to the mouth (Ref. 75). It digs its food from sediments, grasping the prey with its legs. The prey is moved to the gnathobases where it is crushed before being pushed forward toward the mouth (Ref. 77). A life span of about 20 to 40 years (Ref. 78). Its predators are loggerhead turtles, pufferfish, leopard sharks and sea gulls (Ref. 82). They reproduce with the use of the first pair of the six, flap-like appendages on the underside of the abdomen acts as a cover for the genital pore. The egg or sperm are released through this pore during spawning (Ref. 75). These eggs are fertilized by sperm released by an attached male and by one or more satellite males that typically congregate around the nesting pair (Ref. 81). While nesting, females bury themselves in the sediment near the water's edge and lay a series of discrete egg clusters, each containing 2,000-20,000 eggs (Ref. 80). Intertidal spawning (Ref. 99651).

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 114614)

  Vulnerable (VU) (A3bd)

CITES status (Ref. 94142)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans


Human uses

Fisheries: commercial
FAO(fisheries: production) | FIRMS (Stock assessments) | FisheriesWiki | Sea Around Us

More information

Mass conversion

Internet sources

BHL | BOLD Systems | Check for other websites | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | DiscoverLife | FAO(fisheries: ; publication : search) | GenBank (genome, nucleotide) | GOBASE | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | ispecies | National databases | PubMed | Scirus | Sea Around Us | FishBase | Tree of Life | uBio | uBio RSS | Wikipedia (Go, Search) | Zoological Record

Estimation of some characteristics with mathematical models

Vulnerability (Ref. 71543)
Moderate vulnerability (44 of 100)
Price category (Ref. 80766)