These amazing photos show horseshoe crabs thriving in a protected area in the Philippines

By | July 15, 2022

These amazing photos show horseshoe crabs swimming, kicking up sediment and hiding the entire ecosystem inside their shells in protected areas in the Philippines

  • The beautiful photos were taken of horseshoe crabs thriving in the Philippines
  • Tiny marine creatures, which are 450 million years old, have recently faced overfishing and coastal development.
  • Their blue blood is an important ingredient in the development of vaccines, including for Covid-19
  • Marine biologist and photographer Laurent Ballesta captured the photos for National Geographic

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Stunning new pictures of horseshoe crabs show colorful sea creatures thriving in a marine protected part of the Philippines.

These unique creatures, which can grow between 14 and 19 inches depending on gender, have thrived in the ocean and survived all sorts of cataclysmic events for nearly 450 million years.

Laurent Ballesta, a marine biologist and wildlife photographer, took dazzling photos for the August 2022 issue of National Geographic.

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Horse crabs deal with overfishing and coastal development.  Pictured above is a tri-spine horseshoe crab absorbing sediment in the muddy bottom of the Pangatalan Island Marine Protected Area in the Philippines.  After a decade of restoration to the islet’s bay, its green waters are rich in plankton and ready to welcome larger animals.

Horse crabs deal with overfishing and coastal development. Pictured above is a tri-spine horseshoe crab absorbing sediment in the muddy bottom of the Pangatalan Island Marine Protected Area in the Philippines. After a decade of restoration to the islet’s bay, its green waters are rich in plankton and ready to welcome larger animals.

Sadly, they now face some of the same dangers of modern life faced by other species: overfishing and coastal development.

Little is known of the fact that horseshoe crabs are collected for their blue blood, which contains the clotting agent used in the development of safe vaccines – including the Covid -19 vaccine – that conservationists hope will translate into stronger residential protection.

That blood is critical for humans but harvesting it often kills creatures.

Tri-spine horseshoe crabs have lost more than half of their population in the past 60 years.

The horseshoe crab has become a symbol of stability on the Philippine islet of Pangatalan.  Pictured is a horseshoe crab hiding an ecosystem inside its shell.  The hairy objects along its body are hydroids -small and faint invertebrates related to the jellyfish -and there are at least eight shrimp clinging to crab tongs.  Horseshoe crabs are relatively uneducated;  little is known about how they interact with other species

The horseshoe crab has become a symbol of stability on the Philippine islet of Pangatalan. Pictured is a horseshoe crab hiding an ecosystem inside its shell. The hairy objects along its body are hydroids -small and faint invertebrates related to the jellyfish -and there are at least eight shrimp clinging to crab tongs. Horseshoe crabs are relatively uneducated; little is known about how they interact with other species

On the island of Pangatalan in the Philippines, the species is a symbol of the stability of nature.

Over the years, 11 acres of the island have been reported destroyed: trees cut down for timber, mangroves burned for charcoal, and coral reefs filled with dynamite and cyanide.

Over the years, 11 acres of the islet have been damaged.  Pictured: Golden trevallies swim above the horseshoe crab, hoping to catch the leftovers as it digs into the mud for clams and other prey.  As large fish slowly return to the reef, horseshoe crabs may no longer rule the ecosystem.

Over the years, 11 acres of the islet have been damaged. Pictured: Golden trevallies swim above the horseshoe crab, hoping to catch the leftovers as it digs in the mud for clams and other prey. As large fish slowly return to the reef, horseshoe crabs may no longer rule the ecosystem.

In 2011 these horseshoe crabs were among the largest creatures left.

Pangatalan is now a marine protected area and is starting to develop again.

A tank-like horseshoe crab drives the Pangatalan reef, benefiting from the planting of mangroves and the creation of artificial reefs.  Members of the class Merostomata - which means ‘legs attached to the mouth’ - horseshoe crabs are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crustaceans.

A tank-like horseshoe crab drives the Pangatalan reef, benefiting from the planting of mangroves and the creation of artificial reefs. Members of the class Merostomata – which means ‘legs attached to the mouth’ – horseshoe crabs are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crustaceans.

National Geographic reports that efforts to restore its reefs and plant thousands of trees have prompted many animals to return, including the group’s rare giant squirrels.

Horseshoe crabs are not as well known as other endangered species, but hopefully they will provoke more concern for all creatures of nature.

For more on this story, please visit National Geographic.

Dazzling photos of the horse’s feet were taken for the August issue of National Geographic, seen above

Dazzling photos of the horse’s feet were taken for the August issue of National Geographic, seen above


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