We are all connected. We hear that phrase so many times we tend to discount it. But how are humans, horseshoe crabs, dogs, and shorebirds all connected? This is starting to sound like a bad sci-fi movie.
First, What Is A Horseshoe Crab?
They are close cousins of the spider and look like big scorpions with hard-backed shells and long tails, With 10 legs and 10 eyes, they may look scary but are harmless.
Horseshoe Crab Blood
But did you know we rely on horseshoe crabs to make sure our blood supply is free of bacteria? Really? When exposed to toxins, the crabs use their blood, which is blue from the copper in it, to isolate the toxin and enclose it with a gel. This gel keeps them from getting sick. When the crab’s blue blood is exposed to human blood, it reveals any bacteria that might otherwise go undetected.
As a result, all intravenous drugs, including shots and vaccines, in the US are required by the FDA to be tested with horseshoe crab blood to detect any foreign bacteria. Wow! That includes your flu shot and your dog’s rabies shot (ahh, that’s how dogs tie-in!).
Also, your medical implant (think knee or hip replacement) or contact lens has been checked for contamination using the horseshoe crab’s blood. And now any Covid-19 vaccines will first have to be tested with horseshoe crab blood.
Shorebirds And Horseshoe Crabs
Horseshoe Crab Populations Are Declining
The crabs are also harvested as bait for fishing further reducing their populations. Horseshoe crabs are now classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means they are likely to become endangered if conditions do not improve.
How Can We Help?
Second, you can learn all you can about these incredible creatures and truly appreciate all they do. Become an advocate for research to find alternative methods of testing for toxins. Or at a minimum, support groups that are finding ways to reduce the mortality rate and stress factors while harvesting their blood.
We owe our lives to horseshoe crabs. Let’s protect them because it is the right thing to do.