A Letter from Horseshoe Crab on Her Appointment to the Gaian Council

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Frequency Illusion: That’s the term for when you start hearing a word or concept all the time after you first learn it. It also applies to seeing the new non-human species you appointed to your board everywhere after that as well!

Photo of author with Horseshoe Crab at six years old (Image by Avak Assadourian)

This seems to have happened to me. After appointing Horseshoe Crab to the Gaian Council, she has been everywhere: in a new Connecticut law, in old photos, on restaurant placemats (seriously), throughout the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, even at the center of celebration for International Horseshoe Day (which I had no idea existed and, if you’re curious, was June 20th)!*

This is definitely not a bad thing as Horseshoe Crab’s wisdom comes with her presence and I’ve been trying to listen. My sister actually found an old picture of me holding a horseshoe crab when I was about six. Proof that I really did get to know Horseshoe Crab when young and also proof just how huge they were (I bet few make it to this size any longer considering the vampiric assault they’re currently undergoing). I did find another while visiting the beach at the Cape Cod Natural History Museum (much smaller) and almost picked it up for a parallel picture, but it clearly did not want me to do so (burying into the sand as I touched it), so unlike my six-year old self, I listened to my elder.

There was also lots of information about these arthropods in the museum, much of which was anthropocentric (from horseshoe crabs’ use to Native Americans to their use in medicine and research today). But there was also a breeding program, with lots of tiny horseshoe crabs in tanks—graduating from different sizes/ages, and moving into different tanks. This stewardship and introduction to this majestic species was beautiful to see.

Most exciting, of course, were the recent laws passed to protect the horseshoe crab. First, in May, the Connecticut state legislature passed a law that prevents the hand capture and killing of horseshoe crabs from the state’s waters and shoreline, with both the Senate and House voting unanimously in its support. Then in August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a ruling that ends horseshoe crab harvesting at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina during spawning season.** Of course, both laws could be expanded—the CT fine is just $25 and the spawning season is just five months. But it is clear these overlooked elders are at least starting to be considered. That said, enough from me, as one of our new council members has a few things to say.

2-3 year old horseshoe crabs, at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (Image by Erik Assadourian)

A Letter from Your Elder

Dear Gaians,

I offer my gratitude for inviting me to be on the Council. This is quite different than being dragged from the sea and bled. Or, as Native Americans did, use me as spear tips and compost for their gardens. Yes, I look alien—making it easier to see me as a resource rather than a being, so I am glad I get to serve as a peer in this forum.

A few of the ways humans used to exploit Horseshoe Crabs. (Image by Erik Assadourian)

Though truthfully, I am old—440 million years old—and am not sure I have the time or energy for this. I’m not concerned about climate change. I’ve weathered that time and again. But human numbers worry me. They convert shorelines into beach homes (even as scientists warn them that these beaches will be gone before the house expires), they milk us for medicine, and pollute our home with plastic and chemicals (and just wait until the deep sea mining starts!). I imagine, I, like so many other species, will disappear due to humans’ inability to understand their proper place in the larger Gaian whole.

That said, it seems wise (what humans would call “enlightened self-interest”) to engage with this strange sub-population of humans that seem open to being guided by their non-human brethren. So I will offer what wisdom I can in years to come and hope you are open to listening to it.

The most important, and simplest, piece of advice I can offer: attune yourself to Gaia’s rhythms. Those of you who have encountered me might have done so in large numbers during a full moon. That’s because we spawn during those times. We are called to mate then. You, too, are shaped by Gaia’s cycles—daily rhythms shape your sleep and hunger cycles, monthly rhythms shape your menstrual and reproductive cycles, and annual rhythms shape not only your agricultural cycles but even your physiology.

But you all have become oblivious to these rhythms. Your skies are lit up even during the night; most of you don’t even know if the moon is waxing or waning. Though at least you’re still outside enough to know if it’s winter or summer. Failure to reintegrate yourselves within Gaia’s natural ebbs and flows is not just a risk to your wellbeing but to everyone’s, including Gaia’s.

So please, snap out of your cacophonous consumer dream. Sure, go to the beach, swim with us (though don’t touch us). But stop developing the beachside, stop pumping out emissions, or pretending you can simply switch to safer technologies and all will be well. The only path forward is slowing down and stepping back. Just as any little child knows, building one’s sandcastles in a rising tide only leads to them getting washed away—certainly fun to watch when it’s a sandcastle, but not so much when we’re talking about millions of peoples’ and other species’ lives.

Follow Gaia,


I wasn’t kidding. I even saw horseshoe crabs on a placemat in a little breakfast spot on the Cape (Image by Erik Assadourian)


*Granted, this is in part because others, now realizing I’m interested in the horseshoe crab, have sent me information (like the new laws and the old photograph—thanks Susan and Kim!)

**Though only after a lawsuit by brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Defenders of Wildlife.

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