The last of the eurypterids

Obviously the worst thing Vivian ever destroyed was my robot rat taxidermy. We sent her to the glue factory for that.

Giles has definitely destroyed a greater number of items than Vivian, though nothing as valuable as that rat. Arguably. I can easily say what the worst thing was that Giles has ever destroyed. And he did it twice. I blame myself both times, though. In both instances, the destroyed objects were kept in one of the dog-free rooms of the house, but we had somehow, through some lapse, failed to block off access to the dog free rooms while going out and leaving Giles at home.

The two object in question were both hardened, molted skins of the Atlantic horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus. They were very valuable to me because I’d collected them on a trip I’d taken with Jon to the Cape in the summer of ’10, the last summer we were still living in Massachusetts. It was an especially awesome day, despite nearly getting my finger clipped off by a crab.


Not all crabs are as unpleasant as that one, though. That doesn’t segue into my horseshoe crab pictures as well as I thought though, since horseshoe crabs aren’t crabs at all. They’re about as closely related to crabs as we are to say, eels.

So without any more flowery build-up, I’ll say that one terrible day, I found the mostly-eaten remains of my precious horseshoe crab exoskeleton all over the carpet. Giles had even eaten the pointy tail part. Since these skins were collected on the beach, I can imagine that they were salty as well as crunchy, and Giles probably perceived them to be some fishy-flavored potato chips. As usual I told him he was a terrible dog and that we would never love him again. But sometimes that doesn’t ease the pain, and I was heartbroken to have lost these sentimental items.

So last weekend, three years later, we finally had a chance to get some new ones. Can you believe we had to travel 1200 miles to replace what Giles had eaten?

Nevertheless we did. We couldn’t even guarantee that we’d find horseshoe crab molts this time, but Mom came along and we succeeded.

Horseshoe Crab Mom

Upon reading more about horseshoe crabs, I learned that the reason that the skins wash up on that particular beach in Welfleet, MA, is because horseshoe crabs prefer well-protected tidal flats while they are immature. They shed about 17 times before reaching maturity and heading out to sea, and in the meantime, the bay at Lieutenant Island at this beach is practically a spiral and full of grassy marshes, keeping the young safe from most predators until they’re ready to strike out on their own. A nursery beach, if you will. Every time they shed, their skins ends up washing up on the beach, where I gleefully collect them. Once they reach maturity, they never molt again and so once they’re out at sea, they have no shed skin to wash up on any other beach. This explains why while I grew up with easy access to about 12 different beaches and while I sometimes came across live adult crabs, the only place I ever found these skins were on one specific beach on Cape Cod.

While searching for molts on this magical horseshoe crab haven beach, we also came across a large dead female who must have either gotten lost or felt like visting her children. All the barnacles and limpets all over her made her look like she was about 1,000 years old.

Dead one

Who knows? Maybe she knew she was going to die and wanted to visit her childhood home one last time. We let her family visit her and pay their final respects.

Crab Family

Lucky for us we managed to find a way to get a chance to come out here once again and replace the seemingly irreplaceable. Even better, all of these extremely fragile casts survived the trip home in my suitcase somehow. The Terrible Dog is going to have to try harder to ruin everything next time.