It is a gentle clicking, tapping, scraping concert on the upper reaches of a beach and in the long grass of a marsh. Only a soft sound, like muffled castanets, but it speaks of thousands¿thousands of years, thousands of horseshoe crabs and thousands of birds.
As has occurred for aeons, every spring on the New Jersey shore and along the Delaware Bay, hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs emerge from the depths of the ocean to mate. The large females, sometimes attended by as many as four smaller males, walk and are washed onto the beach with the full-moon and other spring high tides. They dig holes at the high-water mark and lay their clusters of tiny olive-colored eggs. The males then fertilize them. As the tide ebbs, the crabs are swept back to sea.
This article was originally published with the title Ancient Rituals on the Atlantic Coast.