First report of a spawning site of Limulus polyhemus at Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve, Yucatan, Mexico

J. J. Sandoval-Gío1*; R. Zamora-Bustillos2; G. A. Avilés-Ramírez3; H. J. Ortiz-León4; C. O. Rosas-Correa5

1 . Tecnológico Nacional de México/Instituto Tecnológico de Tizimín, Yucatán, México., Instituto Tecnológico de Tizimín, Instituto Tecnológico de Tizimín,

, Mexico , 2 . Tecnológico Nacional de México/Instituto Tecnológico de Conkal, Yucatán, México., Instituto Tecnológico de Conkal, Instituto Tecnológico de Conkal,
, Mexico ,
3 . Tecnológico Nacional de México/Instituto Tecnológico de Chiná, Campeche, México., Instituto Tecnológico de Chiná, Instituto Tecnológico de Chiná,
, Mexico ,
4 . Tecnológico Nacional de México/Instituto Tecnológico de Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México., Instituto Tecnológico de Chetumal, Instituto Tecnológico de Chetumal,
<state>Quintana Roo</state>
, Mexico ,
5 . El Colegio de la Frontera Sur Unidad Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México., Colegio de la Frontera Sur, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur,
<state>Quintana Roo</state>
, Mexico

Correspondence: *Corresponding Author: Juan José Sandoval-Gío, Final Aeropuerto Cupul s/n C. P. 97700, Tizimín, Yucatán, México. Phone:+52(986) 863 479 Ext. 119-603. E-mail: E-mail:


This study provides first evidence about a spawning site of American horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus at Rio Lagartos, belonging to Biosphere Reserve, in Yucatan, Mexico. In a single day, June 2016, a simple random sampling without replacement was performed. Six transect (BOC 1 - BOC 6) of 10 m of length each one, were measured along the intertidal zone, with 3 quadrants of 1m2 (a, b, c) alternated in each transect. The nests, its depth, and the number of eggs found there were quantified. The temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, electrical conductivity and salinity of the water in every quadrant, for triplicate, were measured. The marine sediment was analyzed by means of grain size analysis of Folk. Two nests, with depths in the sediment of 20.1 and 16.8 cm, containing one cluster each one, with 313 and 194 eggs, respectively, were found. The ANOVA did not show significant differences between the physicochemical parameters of the water measured (p>0.05). The results of the sedimentological values demonstrated sediment consisted of sand and poorly classified, presenting a curve very platicurtic. It is possible that the limited number of nests and eggs in our study with regard to the registered on the Atlantic coast of the USA, should be because several factors i.e. the seasonal variation, the morphology of the beach and anthropic activities. It is recommended to increase the studies on reproduction and spawning of L. polyphemus in the RBRL to encourage actions of preservation of the species in critical habitats of Mexico.

Received: 2017 September 20; Accepted: 2018 January 29

revbio. 2018 ; 5(1)
doi: 10.15741/revbio.05.2018.05

Keywords: Key words: American horseshoe crab, spawning site, seasonal variation, grain size analysis of Folk, Rio Lagartos.


Rio Lagartos, belonging to Biosphere Reserve, located in the Yucatan Peninsula, is a Natural Reserved Area (NRA) having 74 km of length and an extent of 60,348 hectares; it is the first lagoonal system recorded for Mexico in the RAMSAR Convention (Mauerhofer et al., 2015). Rio Lagartos is a zone where despite the restrictions the environmental legislation requires, impacts on the habitats of numerous species of flora and fauna that live there have been detected, situation that has originated the decrease in number of these species, o losing their wildlife quality (Vidal et al., 2015).

The American horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus is an arthropod, from the class merostomata, (order Xiphosura; family Limulidae) whose distribution in Mexico comprehends the Yucatan Peninsula, from Campeche to Bahia de la Ascension (Gomez-Aguirre, 1993; Rosas-Correa and Ortiz-Leon, 2012), with numerous records in the NRA Rio Lagartos (Zaldivar-Rae et al., 2009). This species is also distributed in the east coast of the Unites States of America (USA), from de Florida Peninsula to Maine (Shuster, 1979).

Despite that the L. polyphemus is found in high densities in both seashores, its population has recently decreased, due to a mix of factors, among them, pollution is one, also changes in the coast line, the degradation of habitats of egg-laying spots in estuaries and fishing activities for commerce (Gomez-Aguirre, 1993; Zaldivar-Rae et al., 2009) (Figure 1). In the presence of this scenario, these authors acknowledge that, within the main necessities to strengthen the existent data that allows establishing protection programs for this species, there is doing more research about the dynamics of the population and recruitment habitat, as well as growth and young development zones.

[Figure ID: f1] Figure 1.

Zone of sampling at Biosphere Reserve of Ria Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico

Numerous studies have been conducted in order to describe the spawning and reproduction patterns of L. polyphemus in the USA (Botton and Loveland, 1989; Brockmann, 1990; Penn and Brockmann, 1994; Smith et al., 2002; James-Pirri et al., 2005; Botton and Loveland, 2011). However, researches that discuss reproductive aspects of the horseshoe crab in environments from the Yucatan Peninsula are scarce (Gomez-Aguirre and Yanez-Martinez, 1995; Rosales-Raya, 1999). Like this, the objective of this work was to identify the spawning sties in the Rio Lagartos zone, within the Biosphere Reserve, characterizing the physiochemical parameters of the water and the sediment of the nests found.

Materials and Methods

The study was performed in Rio Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico (21° 36’ N, 88°09’ - 88°10’ W) belonging to the Biosphere Reserve, with Awo weather (x’) (Koppen, modified by Garcia, 2004). The pluvial precipitation in this coastal locality was 669.9 mm in the 1981-2010 period (CNA). A diurnal journey was carried out on June 30th, 2016, to spot nesting sites of the species. A simple random sampling without replacement was performed, 6 transects of 10 m of length each (BOC 1, BOC 2, to BOC 6), measured along the intertidal zone. In each transect, 3 quadrants of 1m2 (a, b, and c), measured alternately between the high tide and the low tide, respectively (Rosales-Raya, 1999). In each quadrant, 40 cm were dug using a shovel, then, the sediment was manually checked to spot presence of eggs (Figure 2). The number of nests found was counted, the depth in which the eggs were found was measured and then, they were put stored in plastic jars, with humid sand in the middle. The sampling was tagged with the according data to place, date, and time of gathering, for its transportation and further quantification to the Laboratorio de Biotecnologia Acuicola y Marina del Instituto Tecnologico de Tizimin. The regathering was authorized by the Mexican Wildlife Agency (Dirección General de Vida Silvestre in Spanish), September 2015 (SGPA/DGVS/10056/15).

[Figure ID: f2] Figure 2.

Beach sediment collected in a nest of Rio Lagartos, Yucatán, Mexico. The arrow shows the egg cluster of American horseshoe crab

The temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, electrical conductivity and water salinity were measured in each quadrant, by triplicate, with an YSI 550A multi-parameter. The acquisition of the marine sediment was performed with a sediment tube of PVC of 40 cm of length and 5 cm of diameter, putting it in Ziplock® resealable plastic bags of 18 x 20 cm, tagged, which were taken to the laboratory from the Instituto Tecnologico de China for their analysis through the Folk (1966) mechanical sieve technique. The physiochemical parameters of water were analyzed through an ANOVA, using Tukey’s post-hoc test, to evaluate the difference among measures (p>0.05). The ganulometry of the sediment was recorded (phi, classification, symmetry, and type of curve), using the GRADISTAT program.

Results and Discussion

The site where the current report of nesting was observed is a mangrove zone with elements from lower forest and vegetation submerged by marine grass and macroalga, with slight slopes; characteristics which correspond to the Yucatan Peninsula, place described as the ones where this species performs reproductive activities (Gomez-Aguirre, 1993). The inspection of the sandy soil at the edge of the mangrove, included the flooded zone, going through 6 transects in 6 hours of observation (from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.). 2 nests were found, having depths of 20.1 and 16.8, respectively. In the other quadrants and transects, there were no nests found. The depth in which the eggs were found, corresponds to the ones reported on the works of Rudloe (1980), and Weber and Carter (2009), performed in Florida and Delaware, USA, respectively, where depths of nests of L. polyphemus, between 12 and 19 cm.

It is important to highlight that the nests found correspond to transects BOC4b, where a cluster with 313 eggs was quantified and in BOC5c, a cluster with 194 eggs. This discovery was the first one to be documented in the Biosphere Reserve and represents a reduced number according to the ones recorded in the coastal localities from the Atlantic coast in the USA, where between 2000 to 8600 eggs per cluster were quantified (Cohen and Brockmann, 1983; Weber and Carter, (2009). The considerably lower number of eggs per cluster found in the Biosphere Reserve can be attributed to the reproductive activity of L. polyphemus in Yucatan, it remains in the period of night high tides from fall to winter (Gutierrez-Barrera and Zaldivar-Rae, 2013), unlike their congeners from the northeastern coast of the US, where the reproductive activity is in the period from spring to summer (Botton and Loveland, 2011). It has been described that the horseshoe crab is reproduced during the whole year in some regions of Campeche (west from the Yucatan Peninsula) (Zaldivar-Rae et al., 2009), as so it happens in localities in the Florida Peninsula (Rudloe, 1980; Ehlinger et al., 2003); therefore, it is possible that in the Biosphere Reserve, favorable environmental conditions for a greater reproduction and spawning in colder seasons can be found. In order to verify this reproductive pattern, influenced by the marked seasonal condition, it would be convenient to carry out studies about reproduction and spawning of L. polyphemus in the Biosphere Reserve in the season of “norths” (from November to February) when a marked decrease in the environmental temperature occurs.

In our study, the range of water temperature in the 6 sampling sites goes from 29.2 and 30.2 °C, optimal for the embryonic growth of the species (Ehlinger and Tankersley, 2004). The pH oscillated between 7.74 and 8.10 and the conductivity went from 57.52 and 59.1 mS/cm. The salinity went from 32.3 and 32.9 %, and the dissolved oxygen fluctuated between 6.01 and 6.98 mg L-1. The physiochemical parameters of water recorded did not change significantly among themselves (p>0.05). Previous studies have establish that the oxygenation plays an important role for giving recently fertilized eggs an optimal environment for their growth, being this physiochemical parameter influenced by the morphology of the beach (Gerhart, 2007). This way, in the granulometrical analysis of the sediment, it was found that the percentage of sand was the most predominant among the 6 sampling sites (95.71 ± 1.80). In like manner, the percentage of mud was 4.21 ± 1.87 and the percentage of clay was 0.05 ± 0.12. The results of sedimentology demonstrate a compound sediment of medium sand and poorly classified, almost symmetric, presenting a very platicurtic curve. The presence of nests of L. polyphemus related to the morphology of the beach and the energetic flow of the tides has been well characterized by Smith et al., (2002), and has to be reviewed along with the influence of the abiotic conditions; water and sediment.

Finally, consider that the reduced number of nests could have a relation to the degradation of habitats and fishing activities for commerce in the area of study, condition that has already been established beforehand in habitats of the horseshoe crab with an anthropogenic impact in the Yucatan Peninsula (Gomez-Aguirre, 1993). It is important to highlight that in the present research, the danger scenario was evident.


This work was financed by TecNM and CONACYT, with the projects 5431.14-15 PR and PDCPN 2015-1097, respectively.


Enlaces refback

  • No hay ningún enlace refback.

Revista Bio Ciencias, Año 13, vol. 9,  Enero 2022. Sistema de Publicación Continua editada por la Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit. Ciudad de la Cultura “Amado Nervo”,  Col. Centro,  C.P.: 63000, Tepic, Nayarit, México. Teléfono: (01) 311 211 8800, ext. 8922. E-mail:,, Editor responsable: Dra. Karina J. G. Díaz Resendiz. No. de Reserva de derechos al uso exclusivo 04-2010-101509412600-203, ISSN 2007-3380, ambos otorgados por el Instituto Nacional de Derechos de Autor. Responsable de la última actualización de este número Dra. Karina J. G. Díaz Resendiz Secretaria de Investigación y Posgrado, edificio Centro Multidisciplinario de Investigación Científica (CEMIC) 03 de la Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit. La opinión expresada en los artículos firmados es responsabilidad del autor. Se autoriza la reproducción total o parcial de los contenidos e imágenes, siempre y cuando se cite la fuente y no sea con fines de lucro.

Licencia Creative Commons
Revista Bio Ciencias por Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit se encuentra bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinObraDerivada 4.0 Internacional

Fecha de última actualización 9 de Junio de 2022


licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinObraDerivada 4.0 Internacional


Dra. Karina J. G. Díaz Resendiz