We watched as flowers and trees sprang with life following the icy chill of winter. Tulips and daffodils emerged from their icy tombs to pepper the ground with vibrant hues of red and gold. This transition from the stark white sheets of blanketed snow to a kaleidoscope of new life ushered in the anticipation of another Rhode Island summer. With Ocean State residents rushing to picturesque coastlines and overgrown hiking trails, it’s safe to say that the highly anticipated summer season has begun.
This time of year marks the beginning of long beach walks and spectacular summer sunsets, while inviting an ancient tradition found in the small, tidal inlets and shores surrounding the Inn. The mating of the Limulus Polyphemus, or more commonly known as the horseshoe crab, dates back millions of years. The horseshoe crabs’ annual journey returns them to mate in Rhode Island’s shallow ocean waters and salt ponds. Known to many as a living fossil, these creatures are often mistaken as crustaceans, hence the “crab” misnomer. However, these marine arthropods are more closely related to arachnids, putting them in the same category as land spiders. This can be attributed to being joint-legged invertebrates. The horseshoe crab is protected by a hard carapace covering most of its body, keeping it safe from predators and adding to the continuity of the species, using this shell as a shield throughout its lifetime.
Here at the Inn, Horseshoe crab mating rituals are something to behold and couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse, making our way into the shallows of Quonochontaug Pond to view this ancient habitat. It all takes place in shallower waters, where a male will choose his female and cling to her back, waiting for her eggs to disperse into the sand. Once the eggs are laid, the male begins fertilizing them; a process not taken lightly as the females can lay anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 eggs in batches. Many of the eggs do not make it, most are eaten by coastal birds such as the Red Knot, but those that do survive molt six times their first year. Even against a multitude of odds, the horseshoe crabs have weathered the test of time and continue their annual rituals so that their species endures for the next thousand years.