Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Conservationists head to Putai to study `living fossils'

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Members of several wildlife conservation groups went on a field trip to a salt marsh in Putai (布袋), Chiayi City, yesterday to witness Asian horseshoe crabs, known as one of the few "living fossil" species in Taiwan, which have been sighted recently on the coast near Chiayi City.

They will join researchers from the Research Center for Biodiversity, Academia Sinica (RCBAS) and Chiayi officials to see the erection of a netted area to allow the adult crabs to spawn and the babies to be nurtured, making the area an exclusive breeding zone for the crabs.

Five adult and 32 young Asian horseshoe crabs, tachypleus tridentatus, whose appearance on Earth can be dated back to 200 million years ago, have been sighted on the coast of Putai, making it the third place in the country to witness the appearance of the crabs after sightings were reported on the outlying island of Kinmen and in the Penghu (澎湖) archipelago, Chiayi County officials said on Friday.

The protection of the Asian horseshoe crabs is being promoted as one of the activities to attract tourists to Chiayi County, officials said.

Last year 70,000 baby Asian horseshoe crabs bred in captivity were released into the wild off the coast of Kinmen as part of efforts to conserve the "living fossil" species.

With its distinctive domed carapace shaped like a horseshoe and a stiff pointed tail, the Asian horseshoe crab was almost extinct in the waters surrounding Taiwan as a result of development and environmental changes. It started to be sighted again near Penghu a couple of years ago.

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