Impressive photographs of horseshoe crabs living in a conservation area in the Philippines.

In breathtaking photos, horseshoe crabs swim, pick up sediment and hide entire ecosystems in their shells in a conservation area in the Philippines.

  • Gorgeous pictures of horseshoe crabs living in the Philippines
  • Small sea creatures that have been around for 450 million years have recently faced overfishing and coastal development.
  • Their blue blood is an essential ingredient in the development of vaccines, including against Covid-19.
  • Marine biologist and photographer Laurent Ballesta took pictures for National Geographic.

Advertisement

Stunning new horseshoe crab images show colorful sea creatures thriving in the Philippine Marine Protected Area.

Unique creatures that can grow from 14 to 19 inches depending on gender have thrived in the ocean and survived all sorts of cataclysms for about 450 million years.

Laurent Ballesta, marine biologist and wildlife photographer, captured the stunning photos for the August 2022 issue of the magazine. National Geography.

Scroll down for video

Horseshoe crabs face overfishing and coastal development. Pictured above, a three-spined horseshoe crab is raising sediment along the muddy bottom of the Pangatalan Island Marine Sanctuary in the Philippines. After a decade of restoration work in the bay of the island, its green waters are rich in plankton and ready to accept larger animals.

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

Less well known is the fact that horseshoe crabs are harvested for their blue blood, which contains a coagulating agent used in the development of safe vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccinations – which conservationists hope will lead to much stronger habitat protection.

This blood is critical to humans, but collecting it often kills creatures.

Over the past 60 years, three-spined horseshoe crabs have lost more than half of their population.

Horseshoe crabs have become a symbol of resilience on the Philippine island of Pangatalan.  Pictured is a horseshoe crab hiding an ecosystem inside its shell.  The hairy objects along its body are hydroids — tiny, furry invertebrates related to jellyfish — and at least eight shrimp are clinging to the crab's claws.  Horseshoe crabs are relatively unstudied;  little is known about how they interact with other species

Horseshoe crabs have become a symbol of resilience on the Philippine island of Pangatalan. Pictured is a horseshoe crab hiding an ecosystem inside its shell. The hairy objects along its body are hydroids — tiny, furry invertebrates related to jellyfish — and at least eight shrimp are clinging to the crab’s claws. Horseshoe crabs are relatively unstudied; little is known about how they interact with other species

On the Philippine island of Pangatalan, this species is a symbol of nature’s resilience.

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

Over the years, 11 acres of the islet has been degraded.  Pictured: Golden trevally swim above a horseshoe crab, hoping to catch the rest as it digs through the mud for clams and other prey.  As larger fish gradually return to the reef, horseshoe crabs may no longer manage the ecosystem.

Over the years, 11 acres of the islet has been degraded. Pictured: Golden trevally swim above a horseshoe crab, hoping to catch the rest as it digs through the mud for clams and other prey. As larger fish gradually return to the reef, horseshoe crabs may no longer manage the ecosystem.

By 2011, these horseshoe crabs were among the largest remaining creatures.

Pangatalan is now a Marine Protected Area and is starting to thrive again.

The tank-like horseshoe crab pushes itself across the Pangatalan Reef, which has benefited from the planting of mangroves and the creation of artificial reefs.  Members of the class Merostomata, meaning

The tank-like horseshoe crab pushes itself across the Pangatalan Reef, which has benefited from the planting of mangroves and the creation of artificial reefs. Members of the class Merostomata, meaning “feet attached to the mouth”, horseshoe crabs are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than to crustaceans.

National Geographic reports that efforts to restore its reefs and plant thousands of trees have resulted in the return of numerous animals, including the rare giant sea bass.

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

To learn more about this story, visit National Geography.

Dazzling horseshoe crab images were made for the August issue of National Geographic.

Dazzling horseshoe crab images were made for the August issue of National Geographic.