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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI:

The distribution of juvenile American horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire USA

Helen Cheng*, Christopher C. Chabot, Winsor H. Watson III

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In order to effectively manage a fishery, it is important to know the essential habitats used by all life history stages. However, this is often a challenge for animals such as the American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, whose juvenile stages are often difficult to find and quantify. Visual surveys and suction sampling have been used in previous studies, but in the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire, they are less effective and so little is known about the habitats occupied by juveniles. To fill this knowledge gap, we used SCUBA-dive surveys to locate juvenile horseshoe crabs and found them on subtidal mudflats in the upper regions of the estuary, both adjacent to, and at some distance from, known spawning beaches. However, we did not find them in either intertidal or subtidal areas adjacent to spawning beaches just 1-2 kms closer to the coast. These data should be useful for future conservation efforts designed to protect essential horseshoe crab habitats in the Great Bay and other similar estuaries.