Monday, May 11, 2009

A Living Fossil

I take a drive out into the kampungs (villages) whenever I need to be alone and yesterday afternoon, Mom's Day, was a bummer of a day, so there I was, driving along the Papar Road at 6pm, shaking and singing my head off at Linda Ronstadt's "Back In The USA".

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.

Image064

Image063

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.[18] 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,[18] and it turns dark blue when exposed to the oxygen in the air, as seen when they bleed.[18] This is due to change in color of hemocyanin when it is oxygenated.[18] Hemocyanin carries oxygen in extracellular fluid, which is in contrast to the intracellular oxygen transport in vertebrates by hemoglobin in red blood cells.[18] (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.[8] 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.[21] A single horseshoe crab can be worth $2,500 over its lifetime for periodic blood extractions[citation needed].(Wikipedia)

I don't know if we do that here but from what those boys and their mom said, it looked like they had horseshoe crab for dinner last night. I also found this article. I wonder how they taste like. I don't mind trying. If it's from the sea, I'm not so squeamish about it. Wait, maybe I'm over-estimating myself. When we were in Japan, I was nauseated when I found that I was in a whale meat shop so I guess I'm just not so adventurous after all.

And if horseshoe crabs are not weird enough, how about this?

coconut_crab02



23 comments:

hongyi said...
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hongyi said...

I just showed my coursemate Cherie the photos. And she asked, 'Your neighbours?'

Thanks Mum. Now I need to go through another round of teasing from my friends.

Btw, I've seen 2 live ones before with Ming when we were little...remember the trip to Pulau Gayana? We saw fishermen catching them.

terri@adailyobsession said...
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terri@adailyobsession said...

hmm. what is wrong if they r our neighbors?

Precious Pea said...

Seen this many many times here but didnt have a chance to try as i was told it requires time to cook it. I heard the roes are delicious!

foodbin said...

is that a King Crab?

chumpman said...

I've seen this in seafood restaurants here a few times. A friend of mine tried to persuade me to have a try together many times but.....it looks weird to me. Anyone tried and how it tasted ?

Johnathan Oh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnathan Oh said...

Hi Terri, the horseshoe crab is pretty good and meaty too. We used to have thosein my hometown Terengganu but I guess its not common to the Sabahan or should l just say its not common to you? ;).

I still remember my late grandmother who would tell us that it is poisonous if you don't know how to "sembelih" (kill) it but when l grew up later, I have this feeling that she said what she said so that whenever I found one of these crabs, I will bring it to her and she will get to participate in the tasty morsel too :p.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that these blue-blooded crabs are more royal than kings and sultans, lol?

Kim

terri@adailyobsession said...

pp: where oh where have u been?!

foodbin: is tt another name for horseshoe crabs?

chumpman: johnathan did, i ask him!

johnathan:ai ya, ur grandma was right, these things can be nasty for ur tummy if u don't know which parts to discard. tsk tsk tsk, grandma was just concerned, not greedy..:D

and now the question we all want the answer to: how does it taste??

terri@adailyobsession said...

kim: i think many royals are actually black-blooded--too much in-breeding lol

eXodus said...

the last pic is a coconut crab?

Anonymous said...
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Johnathan Oh said...

Hi Terri, so grandma is right... Anyway, the meat texture is like those of crabs but tougher and more packed. I can't recall the taste since the last l tried is when l was like 9 y/o? But I do recall that the meat doesnt taste like that of the common mud crab or flower crabs.

Oh the crab on the dustbin isa coconut crab. My Indonesian colleagues who is from Manado said that these crabs taste good but was not as easy to get. Perhaps you can try and organise a trip to manado and I will gladly go with you on this foodie entourage :p

Precious Pea said...

Terri, my sis and family came back for a one week visit so I was all busy bringing them around to eat and eat and eat and eat.

Katie said...

Wow, those things are freaky looking, especially the one on the trash can! I wouldn't know where to start cooking it ... and I don't think I even have a pot bit enough!

Anonymous said...

what it is? please

Anonymous said...

people eating horseshoe crab:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/197/464019419_aba150fd39.jpg

terri@adailyobsession said...

exodus: correct!

johnathan: but where in indonesia is manado? ok, i'm on, let's go eat horseshoe crabs

pp: here to help u pack? :(

katie: freaky is the word. we'll just throw it on the barbie but honestly, i'm not going to eat a giant tick or a giant spiderlike crab.

anon: the last pic is tt of a coconut crab. i wonder if it's real??

anon: looks like they fried the eggs with onions n stuff. i've always had this slight uneasiness about eating caviar, roe, things like tt. i like cod roe though but any roe tt's a bit bigger than say a poppy seed makes my imagination run wild. horseshoe crab roe doesn't look good.

zurin said...

oh my Terri those things look out of this world. interesting..I wld nt eat teh last one clinging to the bin tho!

Madamoiselle May said...

Woah =o, i lived in Sabah for the last 20 years but i never seen such huge exoskeleton creatures ever in my entire live. thanks for enlightening me that Sabah is still full of "wonders". =D

Agnes said...

Oh Wow never in my life seeing such a thing before!!!!

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