Horseshoe crabs are fascinating inhabitants of the sea represented by four living species, where three species live in Asia, while the fourth species lives on the East coast of North America. Ancient fossils, dating back to Ordovician 445 million years ago looks so similar to recent horseshoe crabs that people often call them "living fossils". Unfortunately, the existing populations are threatened by overfishing of the adults as well as by destruction and pollution of the beaches where they mate and deposit their eggs. All four extant species are on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The blue blood of the horseshoe crabs saves thousands of human lives every year. An extract from their blood are used worldwide to determine whether medicine, blood donations, and medical supplies are infected by bacteria or contain toxins. Horseshoe crabs are also fished for human consumption in Asia, are heavily used as bait for eel and conch on the Atlantic Coast, and migrating shorebirds depend on their eggs for food. We recently initiated a research project to investigate and compare the physiology and genetic variation in all four species of horseshoe crabs worldwide. We intend to analyze the DNA of the horseshoe crabs without damaging the animals by taking blood and tissue samples. Hundreds of animals from all over their known distribution area worldwide will give us the opportunity to analyze their patterns of diversity. The results from this investigation will provide a scientific basis for choosing coasts or estuaries vital to conserve these magnificent animals, their genetic variation, and their huge potential for medical applications.
Dolkhaler; DNA; Galathea 3; horseshoe crabs
Main Research Area:
International Conference on Marine Organisms and their Biomedical Potentials: Expectations and Realizations, 2008