It seems safe to assume that most of what we know about native use of Limulus has been extrapolated from early European chroniclers. By the same token, it was those same English naturalists who gave this creature the moniker “King Crab” due to its obvious similarities with edible crustaceans (crabs and lobsters) with which they were more familiar. “King” was obviously used since the critter looked just like a regular crab«, albeit one that may have experimented a little too much with steroids.One of the English chroniclers of that time was Thomas Harriot – a highly respected biologist. On a voyage to the
In reading Harriot’s words – “which is good meat” – I pondered whether this “shell fish” would have been a significant source of food for Native Americans. I poured through stacks of research, but was only able to locate a single document issued by the University of Delaware College of Marine and Earth Studies and the Sea Grant College Program under the auspices of the Mid-Atlantic Sea Grant Programs and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.« The report succinctly describes Native Americans’ use of horseshoe crabs and states in part, “Indians who inhabited our shores many years ago were the first to recognize the importance of the horseshoe crab. They ate the meat found in the opisthosoma, which contains the muscles that move the horseshoe crab's tail and possibly some organs in the prosoma, the front, semicircular part of the horseshoe crab.” Whether the “meat” was barbequed, boiled, fried, steamed, roasted, grilled, braised, or sautéed prior to its consumption will forever be one of history’s great unknowns. Try as I might, I could not locate any additional verification of this practice
« It wasn’t until 1881, when horseshoe crabs were no longer considered to be Crustacea that they were scientifically “kicked out” of the crab family. But, by then, the name “horseshoe crab” had been firmly cemented in the minds of the public – so much so, that they have retained that misnomer ever since.