Pity the poor horseshoe crabs. Despite 450 million years of evolution, the marine arthropods have never developed a foolproof way to flip themselves over when they’ve been turned upside down on a sandy beach. That leaves them vulnerable to sun exposure and birds of prey.
To assist the prehistoric creatures, who enter New Jersey bay beaches to mate and lay their eggs each spring, the Wetlands Institute helped launch reTURN the Favor. In late April, Lisa Ferguson, director of research and conservation with the Stone Harbor-based nonprofit, carefully explained to a group of first-time volunteers the proper technique for turning the crabs right side up.
Throughout the spring and early summer, the volunteers and dozens of others probed miles of sand along the Delaware Bay to aid the crabs, ensuring that as many as possible survived to spawn millions of eggs.
The crabs are not the only beneficiaries of the program. Their eggs support dozens of species and are essential for the survival of one in particular: the rufa red knot, one of more than 80 species listed as endangered or threatened in New Jersey.
READ THE FULL STORY: Endangered Zone: How Can NJ’s Imperiled Species Survive? (New Jersey Monthly)
SIDEBAR: New Jersey Bats: Hanging On (New Jersey Monthly)
An invasive fungus nearly wiped out several bat species in the Garden State. Now they struggle to bounce back.