The Most Ancient New Yorkers

“I love my crabs” says Dorothy “Dottie” Werkmeister when I ask her why she does it. Dottie has been site coordinator for Big Egg in Queens for the Horseshoe Crab monitoring and tagging program organized by Cornell University since 2009. Every high tide from May to the beginning of July, the Horseshoe Crabs, the most ancient living New Yorkers, mate on the Atlantic coast beaches. Every year when there is full or new moon, squads of volunteers team up to count and tag them in seven different sites throughout three NYC boroughs.


If you have used contact lenses, had a flu shot or used any medicinal drugs it was made possible by Horseshoe Crabs, since their blood is used to test for bacteria contamination. These survivors are in trouble, in 2016 Horseshoe Crab population was listed in the IUCN Red List as vulnerable. The population’s main threats are unsustainable harvesting and climate change. Horseshoe Crabs are harvested for baiting eels and conches, as well as for biomedical use. Climate change is serious too. Most of the sites were already heavily affected by the superstorm Sandy and by 2100 it is estimated that some of the sites where the monitoring is currently held are going to be underwater. The scientific data collected during the monitoring and tagging will help to better comprehend the management of the sites and the conservation of the species.


“They lived 450 million years” Phil Cusimano, site coordinator at Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, says “they survived five extinction eras, and we are here to find out if they are going to survive the last one.”

Anita Cabrera, on the left, former site coordinator of Plumb Beach, recording the HSC while Jacky Lee, volunteer, is pacing. Full or new moon effects the tides and the number of HSC on the beach, infact the counts are just two days before, during and two days after full or new moon. Plumb Beach, Brooklyn.

Jesse Lerer, volunteer, start recording the horseshoe crab data. They record number, sex, and if they have any notes. Plumb Beach, Brooklyn.

Horseshoe Crabs in a quadrant. During the count two teams walk on the beach and put down the quadrant every 17 m counting how many male or female crabs are in the 1 meter square space. Big Egg, Brooklyn.

To tag a Horseshoe Crab you drill a hole in their shell called prosoma and you insert the tag. Tags help scientists to find out about the animal habits. NYC Audubon volunteers, Big Egg, Brooklyn.

Male Horseshoe Crab body. The hairy center is the mouth, the first two arms have boxing glove to get attached to females, the other arms are used to eat. Big Egg, Brooklyn.

Phil Cusimano, site coordinator, and Erika Crispo, volunteer, drilling a hole to place the tag on a Horseshoe Crabs. Plumb Beach, Brooklyn.

Horseshoe Crab are biofluorenscence, if lit by a black light they glow. It's one of the few animals that deos that. Plumb Beach, Brooklyn.

The volunteer team Is measuring the length of a male horseshoe crab. Big Egg, Brooklyn.

Horseshoe Crab mating, Big Egg, Brooklyn.

A tagged Horseshe Crab. The tag helps to find out the habits of the Horseshe Crab. NYC Audubon volunteers at Big Egg, Brooklyn.

Heather Loebner, volunteer, on a rainy day during the moniroting of the Horseshoe Crab on Plumb Beach, Brooklyn.

A Horseshoe Crab on the beach, on the background volunteer for the monitoring and tagging of the Horseshoe Crabs. Plumb Beach, Brooklyn.

Christine Nealy, site coordinator for Dead Horse Bay, is measuring the Horseshoe Crabs right before tagging. On the background Bridget Klapinsk, volunteer, is collecting the horseshoe crab for the tagging. Collecting this type of data will help to udnerstand better the habit of this species. Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn. The program is a collaboration between NYC Audubon and Cornell University.

Bridget Klapinsk, volunteer, has done this before. Living in the Rockaways she wants to be part of something to help the bay. Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn. The program is a collaboration between NYC Audubon and Cornell University.