If you venture out to the beach in New York in the summer, you might see a big horse with a horseshoe in its head, six-round body, long, barbed tail, and this is what they call a horseshoe crab, a kind of living fossil.
And living fossils are animals that still live, although they’ve been around for millions of years, including this animal that has its own fossils that go back about 480 million years, and that’s over 200 million years before the dinosaurs.
While the animal has survived that long period, it is threatened with extinction after modern medicine has made use of it, employing its blue blood to test the presence of any serious bacterial contaminants in new and innovative medicines, in which the blood-cell extract of these animals interacts chemically with any harmful contaminants in medicines.
Thousands of these animals are hunted every year to extract their blood from a close-heart blood vein, later released, but it has been proven that 30% of these creatures die after this process, which prompted scientists from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and the Museum of Zoology at the American University of Harvard to create a atlas of all kinds of horseshoe cancer from 480 million years, and announced this work in the latest issue of Frontier patrol Earth Science.”
Dr. Russell Beckenel of New South Wales University, Australia, and the lead researcher for the study, published the day before yesterday, The Universe.com, says that despite the availability of an artificial alternative to blue blood nearly two decades ago, there is uncertainty about the efficacy of this alternative, which makes the harvesting of blood (horseshoe cancer) continue, and hopefully the atlas will help conservation efforts.
It took three years to build the atlas, which included sending an email to more than 100 researchers and museum directors, and traveling between Australia, Britain, Germany, Russia, Slovenia and the United States to collect the pictures. The result was the documentation of 110 types of horseshoe crabs, whether live or extinct.
Beckenel adds: “The atlas will help to shed light on the unique and complex evolutionary history of horseshoe crabs, where these arthropods (exoskeletons and axial legs) have survived all mass extinctions and their appearance has changed over time. For example, we have completely strange fossil forms, such as horseshoe crabs in the form of an ax.”