Horseshoe crabs on verge of extinction

MERINEWS – MUSSADIR ALAM

HORSESHOE CRAB, commonly referred to as the ’living fossil’ is all set to join the long list of the endangered species. Decline in number of horseshoe crabs has become a matter of big concern for wildlife scientists as well as activists. Extinction of horseshoe crabs is a big threat for pharmaceutical, clinical and food industries, and the ecological balance as well.

Once named Horsefoot Crabs because of the resemblance of their shell to a horse hoof, the Horseshoe Crab is originally not a crab. In fact, horseshoe crabs have their own classification and belong to Class Merostomata of Arthropoda Phylum. A hard-shelled invertebrate, horseshoe crab lives in warm, shallow coastal waters on the sea floor.
Commonly found along the coastal region, horseshoe crabs have existed for more than 250 million years on earth. Despite geographical changes in millions of years, horseshoe crabs evolved a little. Horseshoe crabs survived due to their hard, curved shells, which saved them from predators. Besides, horseshoe crab can survive without eating a year and can endure extreme temperature conditions and salinity as well.
The arthropods are considered an important species for medicinal research and also have special value in pharmaceutical, clinical and food industries. Horseshoe crabs found in Indian subcontinent also work as indicators of the health of the coastal zone. Medicine experts say that horseshoe crabs have properties to treat diseases such as typhoid and meningitis. In addition, the medicine from horseshoe crab acts as a painkiller and can be used on burn victims and skin-graft donors.
In the 1900s, after drying, horseshoe crabs were used as fertilizer and poultry food supplements. Long survival of horseshoe crabs has given scientists a good resource to know more about the immuno-defensive mechanisms and perfection in their biological and physiological processes. This unique characteristic of the horseshoe crabs has enabled scientists to use it in space to look for proof of any illness in outer space.
Fact is that horseshoe crabs have played a vital role in anyone’s life who has received an injectable medication. An extract from the horseshoe crab’s blue, copper-based blood called ’lysate’ is used to test the purity of medicines. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies use the crab’s blood to ensure that their products such as intravenous drugs, vaccines and medical devices, are free of bacterial contamination. No other test other than horseshoe crabs works as easily and reliably for this purpose. Shells of horseshoe crabs have also been used to speed blood clotting and to make absorbable sutures.
Horseshoe crabs have important ecological role in the food chain. Decrease the species would affect other species in food chain, especially shorebirds who feed on the eggs of horseshoe crabs exposed on the surface. Sea turtles also feed on adult horseshoe crabs. Hence, decline in number of horseshoe crabs will destabilise the food chain.

To save the horseshoe crabs from complete extinction, world scientists are demanding to include the invertebrate in the Schedule IV of the Wild Life Act for labelling the crabs as endangered species. Of course, the Act will check the improper use of horseshoe crab for various purposes, but it looks almost impossible to significantly increase the number of the arthropod in future.
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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Horseshoe crabs on verge of extinction

  1. Genius

    dude horseshoe crabs go way farther back then 250millions years ago..

    • Anonymous

      It is so obvious that the decline is directly parallel to them being harvested for their blood for medicine. They are going extinct because of our using them for medicine and research. It is HUGE money in the pharmaceutical world and they are extracting their amazing copper blue blood faster then ever and not letting them really free . They claim they have nothing to do with the decline. Get real! We are talking about billions not millions and the public relations dept are paid off to make everything look rosy. The truth is they are kept in holding tanks where they take blood from them over and over till they are drained. I know because I have witnessed it. They do not reproduce in captivity , and need to be free for health and diet. How would you feel locked up in a holding tank or pond and your blood taken from you and your diet compromised
      so you could not produce blood fast enough.

      • Anonymous

        They arent harmes in the blood extraction. There is no way they couls be respnosible

  2. Tasha Smith

    Horseshoe crabs are the bomb they should live forever they are like my favorite animal.

  3. Bill

    450 million years at least

  4. Michelle

    I’ve been researching them ALOT and actually 250 mill. is true.

  5. Ehw, CREEPERS. Save horseShoe Crabs, Crackers !

  6. Horse shoe crabs used to be used for eel trap bait, but not anymore thanks to new regulations

    • Anonymous

      USED TO BE IS THE OPERATIVE PHRASE. THEY SHUT DOWN HARVEST 10-15 YEARS AGO IN NJ AND BLAME THE COMMERCIAL CRABBER FOR THEIR DISAPPEARANCE (GREEDY OVERFISHING) HOW DOES A COUPLE OF FISHERMAN WIPE OUT AN ENTIRE SPECIES? AND WHY WOULD THE COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN FISH HIS SELF OUT OF WORK? I AM TIRED OF THE STATE LETTING BIG COS POLUTE OUR WATERWAYS AND THEN BLAME IT ON THE WORKING MAN. WHAT MAKES MORE SENSE THE CRABBER GOT SO GREEDY HE CAUGHT EVERY CRAB IN THE BAY TIL THEY WERE GONE. OR THE PCBS, LEAD , OIL AND ALL THE OTHER POLLUTANTS THAT THE STATE ALLOWS TO SPEW IN OUR PRECIOUS WATERWAYS IS MAKING THE WATER TO WARM DEPLETING THE OXYGEN AND CREATING DEAD ZONES AND KILLING OFF MARINE LIFE. I AM SICK OF THIS STATE. THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF HORSESHOE CRABS I LIVE ON THE DELAWARE BAY AND SPAWING SEASON JUST PASSED AND WHAT LITTLE BEACH IS THERE WAS COVERED WITH SPAWING ADULTS BABY HORSESHOE CRABS MOLTING AND EGGS WERE SO MANY THE RED KNOTS AND TURTLES COULDNT EAT THEM ALL THE SEAGULLS FINSIHED THEM OFF. WHOEVER DOESNT BELIEVE ME I GOT PICS TO PROVE IT. THE STATE CAN MAKE MONEY ACTING LIKE THEY ARE SAVING THE WORLD, BUT IT WAS THE STATE OF NJ THAT MADE THEM ENDANGERED. BELIEVE THIS COMMERCIAL CRABBERS ARE OUT TO MAKE A LIVING AND IT WOULD NOT BE IN THEIR BEST INTEREST TO WIPE OUT THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER DOES IT?

  7. riley

    true dat. the horseshoe crab will probably never be extinict, do yu know how many eggs one of those things lay? over 120,000 of them, so yeah

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