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Atlantic Horseshoe Crab Mating Season and More in Maryland

Alex has taught at seven public schools, been accepted into three honorary societies, and traveled the Americas and Europe. He has his BS.

Portion of the Calvert Cliffs of Calvert County, Maryland.

Portion of the Calvert Cliffs of Calvert County, Maryland.

The Dawn of a New Adventure

The date was June 22, 2018. I was ready for something new. I had looked up possible fossil-finding destinations in Maryland prior to making any official decisions. I soon decided that I would go hunting for fossils in Bay Front Park (Brownie's beach). The park is located in the town of Chesapeake Beach in Calvert County, Maryland.

The bottom sides of two living specimens of Limulus Polyphemus.

The bottom sides of two living specimens of Limulus Polyphemus.

I prepared my GPS and began the travel southward. The car ride was about three hours, but worth it. The more I travel through this country—even when I go through places I have been before—my sense of respect and awe for my great nation only increases. Driving alongside the forests of rural Maryland is a magnificent experience.

Gorgeous fungus specimen growing inside of Bay Front Park.

Gorgeous fungus specimen growing inside of Bay Front Park.

Entering the Beach

One of the fascinating features of the park is the pathway to the beach. It would appear that caring residents have made a great amount of effort to educate locals and tourists alike.

Orange flowers on the beach side.

Orange flowers on the beach side.

Placed beside the wild plant life on the pathway are signs with the scientific nomenclatures of some of the plants along with their photographs. The carers for the park had also considerately included a good number of garbage cans to help reduce the amount of unnecessary waste. The entire thing has been done very professionally. The entire park is absolutely gorgeous.

Wonderful assortment of ferns in Bay Front Park.

Wonderful assortment of ferns in Bay Front Park.

Horseshoe Crabs on the Beach

Perhaps the first item of note when I initially came to the beach's shore was a plethora of horseshoe crabs in the sand. I had come to the town of Chesapeake Beach to look for fossils, but I soon realized that I had stumbled into something else that was likewise incredibly intriguing.

Male and female ducks dotting the landscape.

Male and female ducks dotting the landscape.

Scores, perhaps even hundreds, of Atlantic horseshoe crabs were in the act of copulating. Their scientific nomenclature is "Limulus Polyphemus." Xiphosurans (horseshoe crabs) meet on the beach to procreate during their mating season.

Watery arthropods laying on the beach.

Watery arthropods laying on the beach.

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I had stumbled onto the beach at the right time; I had planned to make a quick getaway and hadn't thought about all of the biological potentials! That's the magic of, once in a while, making a day trip! One never knows what to expect outside of the perpetual daily ritual activities that we usually engage in.

More of the Beach

I spent a great part of that day tipping these creatures right side up. These arthropods are not to be feared; they don't use their sharp tails as a weapon. In fact, their sharp tails are used to aid them when they are tipped upside down. These tails are perhaps more useful when swimming as these poor beasts of the deep often find it difficult to get on their claws.

A team of ducks.

A team of ducks.

I acted quickly as a group of ducks had begun to congregate around these animals. Horseshoe "crabs" are not crabs at all. They bleed blue blood and have more in common with spiders than with real crabs. These incredible guys may also have a relatively close relation to the extinct category of underwater animals called eurypterids (these were also water dwelling arthropods).

Fossils on the Beach

I spent some of my time looking for interesting fossils. I didn't discover any fossils that I was interested in keeping. However, I was mesmerized when I witnessed the salty waves crash into the nearby cliffs.

One of the many insects that the nearby ducks seemed to have great interest in.

One of the many insects that the nearby ducks seemed to have great interest in.

I eventually found a soft spot by the edge of the nearby forest, laid down, and soaked the whole thing in. The occasional rain only added to the surreal feeling of this gorgeous area.

The side of one xiphosuran.

The side of one xiphosuran.

I may not have found any fossils to take home, but I was surrounded by them. That's what makes so much of the world so amazing. Thousands, maybe millions, of years aided in the formation of the beach's sands.

Not to mention the clay-filled cliffs, the filed down stones, as well as every insect, bird, and fish. Billions of years of stellar, geographic, chemical, and biological evolution just for the organic life. We all preserve a great deal of the past in us. Perhaps I did come across the fossils that I was looking for after all.

© 2018 Alexander James Guckenberger

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