Some prehistoric creatures are getting a fresh start in the Delaware Bay.
The beaches along the Delaware Bay are home to all different types of fish and wildlife - but for horseshoe crabs, their home and their entire species has been threatened in the region.
Dr. Daniel Hernandez is the Associate Professor of Biology at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and told NBC40, "You know, it's not the most charismatic thing in the world, but it's vitally important. They have been around for hundreds of millions of years and it would be a shame for them to die on our watch."
The prehistoric crab has been noted as a vital part of the ecosystem because migratory birds, some of which are considered endangered, feed on the horseshoe crab eggs.
Matt Ferroni is the Senior Biologist at Adventure Aquarium and said, "Having a good population of horseshoe crabs is vital to their survival."
That's why researchers from the Adventure Aquarium in Camden spent the day on the beaches of the Delaware Bay in Cape May County releasing 50 juvenile horseshoe crabs back into the wild.
Fernandez said, "Horseshoe crabs…they might be scary, but they can't hurt you, they're your friend. It's a new start for an old species."
Biologists at Adventure Aquarium say the horseshoe crabs released on Wednesday are juveniles, and are about 2 to 3 years old.
The program is called the Horseshoe Crab Head-Start Program and officials say it gives the crabs a better chance at survival, and a better chance of being able to reproduce going forward.
Ferroni told NBC40, "All of the crabs we are releasing today, the 50 of them, have been tagged. It's a very new project we're working on."
Experts say the survival rate of horseshoe crabs in the wild is very low. Female horseshoe crabs can lay up to 80,000 eggs on the Delaware Bay, and it's estimated that only one in ten of these eggs reaches adulthood. But with the aquarium's Head-Start Program, they've had better success at keeping the crabs alive. "Our survival rate right now is about 35%...which is impressive," explained Ferroni.
The horseshoe crabs released on Wednesday were first gathered as eggs in July of 2011. Biologists with the project say they have repeated the process every year since with increasing success.
Experts hope to continue the project every year, for years to come.
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