FAIRFIELD -- With their spiky, armor-plated shells, they look like miniature tanks mounting a surprise invasion on local beaches -- except they have been at it for nearly a half-billion years.
But the American horseshoe crab, the homely, humble distant relative of ancient trilobites, has fallen on hard times. They're harvested for bait, their blood is collected for medical science, and their numbers are dwindling in places along the Eastern Seaboard, as well as in Asia.
Sacred Heart University, which for years has studied the horseshoe crabs of Long Island Sound, has formed a partnership with Mystic Aquarium's research arm to better understand the stresses facing the living fossils.
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