Then I saw this large native family of about 10--mom, dad, babies, teens, walking at the side of the road. One of them, a boy of about 14, was holding something with both hands above his head over his back. I stopped my car and went after them with my handphone--didn't have my camera with me. Two of the boys patiently allowed me to take photos of this thing that looked like an alien or a giant bug or both. They said the thing was called "beringgis" in their language (and there is a Beringgis Resort nearby. Now I know the meaning of the word), they had just caught it from the sea, the legs are meaty and delicious, and there are loads of eggs/roe inside the shell. I didn't hold the thing, but it was as big as my wok so it must've been at least 4 kgs? I've only seen these 'bugs' hung on the walls in motels and seaside homes, and once or twice in the fish markets but this is the first time I've seen one alive and so big too.
When I showed Wey the photo, he said the crab was "like a thing from before Jesus". Correction, Wey, it should be "from 445 million years ago"! According to what I've read on horseshoe crabs, these are 'living fossils' because they haven't changed since at least 445 million years ago, based on a fossil dated to that era found in Manitoba, Canada. How do you like that?! I am fascinated.
I showed the photo to my friend Elaine this morning and asked her what she thinks horseshoe crabs are distant cousins of, in a very very minute size and she said "It looks like a giant tick!" She is right, the horseshoe crab is distantly related to the tick and the spider AND NOT the crab. I like to ask Elaine what she thinks of the looks of things, because she can be very apt in her description. She once described our least-liked dog (and she & I are dogs lovers) , the chihuahua, as "a giant rat!" That is so true, I always think of a rat when I see a chihuahua or some people who look like one.
Did you know that the horseshoe crab has colorless blood that turns dark BLUE after exposure to the air? Now how outer space is that?
The blood of horseshoe crabs (as well as that of most molluscs, including cephalopods and gastropods) contains the copper-containing protein hemocyanin at concentrations of about 50 g per litre. These creatures do not have hemoglobin (iron-containing protein) which is the basis of oxygen transport in vertebrates. Hemocyanin is colourless when deoxygenated and dark blue when oxygenated. The blood in the circulation of these creatures, which generally live in cold environments with low oxygen tensions, is grey-white to pale yellow, and it turns dark blue when exposed to the oxygen in the air, as seen when they bleed. This is due to change in color of hemocyanin when it is oxygenated. Hemocyanin carries oxygen in extracellular fluid, which is in contrast to the intracellular oxygen transport in vertebrates by hemoglobin in red blood cells. (from Wikipedia)
In the Atlantic ocean of the USA, these creatures are tagged because they are periodically caught and bled. Yes, bled, to collect their blood for use by the pharmaceutical and medical device industries to ensure that their products, e.g., intravenous drugs, vaccines, and medical devices, are free of bacterial contamination. No other test works as easily or reliably for this purpose.
Horseshoe crabs are valuable as a species to the medical research community, and in medical testing. The above-mentioned clotting reaction is used in the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) test to detect bacterial endotoxins in pharmaceuticals and to test for several bacterial diseases. LAL is obtained from the animals' blood.
Horseshoe crabs are also used in finding remedies for diseases that have developed resistances to penicillin and other drugs.
Horseshoe crabs are returned to the ocean after bleeding, although some do die during the process. Studies show that blood volume returns to normal in about a week, though blood cell count can take two to three months to fully rebound. A single horseshoe crab can be worth $2,500 over its lifetime for periodic blood extractions.(Wikipedia)
And if horseshoe crabs are not weird enough, how about this?