"She seized a live horseshoe by the tail, and made prize of several five-fingers"
Three views of an Atlantic horseshoe crab
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThree views of an Atlantic horseshoe crab - Credit: Didier Descouens

Despite their name, horseshoe crabs are in fact more closely related to spiders and scorpions than crabs. With their hard domed shells, they are remarkably primordial-looking creatures, reflecting the fact that they roamed the earth 100 million years before dinosaurs. A long, sword-like tail protrudes from the horseshoe crab’s rear end: this is not a weapon but serves as a rudder in water and a means by which the crab can right itself if it happens to get turned upside down while on land. The Atlantic variety, limulus polyphemus, can be found from Maine down to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, taking up residence in shallow ocean waters where the waves are shallow and the shores sandy.

 

Common starfish
GNU Free Documentation LicenseCommon starfish - Credit: Herbythyme

Five-fingers, like sea-star, is another name for a starfish. This well-known marine animal comes in an array of colors and forms, with North America’s most populous variety, the common starfish, radiating five spiny, tentacle-like arms from its central core. They are extremely robust and, if one happens to lose an arm, is able to grow it back. They’re also highly efficient predators, though their table manner is one of the most repulsive in the animal kingdom: alighting on an appetizing clam, oyster or other shellfish, the starfish will use its powerful muscles to lever it open, extrude its stomach from the mouth in the centre of its body, insert it into the shell and dissolve its prey into a digestible gloop.