An epic migration and fight for survival on the Delaware Bay in VR

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It’s a mystery how these two remarkable species: a bird and a crab, living thousands of miles apart, meet for an unlikely reunion every year on the Delaware bay. Witness their recent struggle for survival and meet the scientists working to save them.

A tiny shorebird that flies halfway around the world, and a 400-million-year-old crab with bright blue blood might not sound like a natural pairing. But every spring, for a few short weeks on the Delaware Bay, this unlikely duo shows up like clockwork.

Despite the consistency with which these two incredible species meet, their numbers are plummeting and scientists are concerned. Witness their reunion and see why they are struggling to survive in the video.

Red knots are shorebirds that weigh as much as your cell phone. Each spring they travel from Patagonia to the arctic to breed. After flying for up to six days straight, the birds arrive at the Delaware Bay emaciated, just as horseshoe crabs are crawling ashore to lay their eggs. During this brief stopover period, the birds feast on the horseshoe crab eggs to double their body weight so they can complete their journey to the arctic. If there are not enough eggs the birds won’t survive.

Horseshoe crabs face challenges of their own. These ancient creatures are harvested for their blue blood which contains a chemical that can detect even trace amounts of bacteria. Medical companies use it to test nearly all human vaccines and medical devices for contamination. In addition, horseshoe crabs are caught and killed for bait.

In a twist of fate, it was the crash in red knot numbers in the late 1990s and early 2000s that first alerted scientists to the plight of horseshoe crabs in the area. For the past 21 years, an international group of experts, known as the Delaware Shorebird Project, has been studying the population of red knots and monitoring the horseshoe crab spawns.

“It was our work that basically told the story of the impact of the loss of crabs and ultimately helped agencies to develop regulations that are now attempting to protect the crabs,” says Larry Niles, a wildlife biologist with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, who co-leads the effort.

The team aims to continue conducting research on the health and condition of these species. Their hope is that the data they collect will drive policy and behavior changes that will help save them and shorebirds alike.

“It’s our job to make sure that our world is rich enough for our children and grandchildren,” expressed Niles.

Watch the Delaware Shorebird Project in action in the video above.

Learn more about the Delaware Shorebird Project:

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