Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xiphosura

Harbor Island was sun swept. Even early in the morning the glare came in relentless through the wide glass panes, turning the wood on the veranda too hot to walk on, bringing out the smell of the brine and the paint and the newness that is America.

But there was no newness down in Beaufort where the plantation houses moldered away quietly under Spanish moss. She had told me about the cemeteries when all was new, but I had half forgotten the passion of an afternoon under the eaves a long time ago.



So already I cut a solitary figure as I wandered on the beach, my track like the cusps of the waves. Until I saw the horseshoe crabs marooned on their backs, half alive, half dead as the sun climbed in the sky.

The Chinese woman posed and Jack took her photo. Her face a picture of love or vanity or the shallowness that is possession, all in a Kodak moment - sallow and two dimensional, washed out in the morning sun.

I was glad when he went away with his daughter and left her there, asking nagging questions, although it was a brief lull in her vanity. A man in his prime with the sand falling swift through his veins, although he never realized it then.

One day, sooner than I would ever know after the day on the beach he would inch his way to the piano in the hospice foyer and play "When you Wish on a Star," for the last time, his voice a deathly gasp from the undertow. And he'd look around at the able bodied nurses and the visitors as they strode in and realize he was stranded too. A horse shoe crab on its back midway between life and death.

So where was I, I wonder now. All these years a cold star in a blue constellation, far away in time and space where nobody could reach me...

Well my X was a bit different from the rest, but isn't x always like that? It's a bit edgy, its x-rated. It can see through your skin into your bones.

Xiphosura, the horseshoe crab is an arthropod that lives primarily in and around shallow ocean waters on soft sandy or muddy bottoms. They are a common sight on the beaches of America. The crabs occasionally come onto shore to mate and then they get into trouble. Well don't we all.

They are commonly used as bait and in fertilizer which is no great epitaph.

The entire body of the horseshoe crab is protected by a hard shell. It has two primary compouns eyes and seven secondary simple eyes, two on the underside. Its multiple eyes remind me of a spider,and it looks like a spider under the shell.  It has five pairs of legs for walking, swimming, and moving food into the mouth. Its long, straight, rigid tail can be used to flip itself over if turned upside down, so a horseshoe crab with a broken tail is more susceptible to being attacked and eaten.

Useless Fact About the Xiphorusa

Although they are not Royality, their blood is blue. Unlike vertebrates, horseshoe crabs do not have hemoglobin in their blood, but instead use hemocyanin to carry oxygen around their bodies. Because of the copper present in hemocyanin, their blood is blue.

What Not To Say to a Xiphosura

Want to go fishing?




14 comments:

  1. I've seen these awesome creatures on lots of beaches, on Cape Cod, in Maine, and in Florida. I love marine life.

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    1. I know Carrie-Anne - always get a kick out of it when I see them.

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  2. This was indeed different from the rest of your alphabet. It's very profound. I love how you related the crab (pls don't ask me to write the x word) to the man. I love this line - A man in his prime with the sand falling swift through his veins, although he never realized it then. Beautifully written.

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    1. thanks so much Dee - I know it was a bit different as there was not too much background on horsehoe crabs :)

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  3. At least we don't get stuck on the beach after mating and die. At least most of us don't. Hopefully.

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    1. hmm Jean you obviously have not been to some of the unpleasant resorts I have frequented :)

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  4. Well written post, David. Wow! You pulled me right in with that one. Very sad. I've heard of horseshoe crabs, but have never heard them called this.

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  5. I've neer seen a horseshoe crab in real life. Only pictures. Maybe one day. Although their underside sounds like it'd creep me out a bit.

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    1. oh they are quite common on the Atlantic coast Patricia, certainly down south

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  6. I see them occasionally in this area. They are so prehistoric looking & creep me out.

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    1. Yep bet you get them too - they do look that way, particularly from underneath..

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