Is It a Prince or What?

Today I want to talk about the horseshoe crabs, organisms of our loved Sea considered living fossils. In fact, this species has undergone only minimal changes over the last 400 million years.

Limulus polyphemus is associated with fossil species lived in the Triassic period, about 200 million years ago, and other similar species that lived in the Devonian, 400 million years ago, however the group of xiphosurs appeared on the Earth in the Miocene, about 20 million years ago.

We are talking about chelicerate arthropods that live in North America and the Gulf of Mexico. They make a mass migration in the reproductive period, in the middle of spring, to reach Delaware Bay where they lay their eggs.

The blood of these organisms is white-gray or pale yellow, but becomes dark blue when exposed to oxygen in the air. This happens because instead of possessing hemoglobin in the blood, they have hemocyanin, which replaces iron with copper.

What I propose today is, therefore, not the investigation of the reproductive strategy of these beautiful organisms or other biological and ethological characteristics. What I will tell you is about their utilization in the pharmaceutical industry.

This species is in fact used for the so-called Limulus test that is done with their blood.
The immune system of the horseshoe crab is primitive, but able to recognize the lipopolysaccharides present on the walls of Gram-negative bacteria, succeeding in eliminating them by enclosing them in a clot. This allows the individualization of bacterial endotoxins in industrial raw materials and water, as well as in pharmacology and for the detection of certain bacterial diseases.

Basically, this organisms permits us to test the sterile properties of drugs and more.

After removing blood from these animals, the pharmaceutical companies take them back to the sea to allow them to continue living. However, the mortality rate of these organisms after blood collection is 15%, due to the possible degeneration of vital organs (hypoxemia), or possible shocks.

What I would like to say is that today, in the twenty-first century, we are still unable to produce a substance that can have the same effects as the blood of the horseshoe crab. Is it possible that with technological and scientific development we must once again ask nature to offer us what we could self-produce? It is not too much to continue to deteriorate a world already collapsed.

What I ask to the world of the pharmaceutical industry and science, in general, is why do we rely on nature once again with the hope that all this will last forever?

These organisms as we have said are living fossils, which means that they have been able to adapt to multiple geological eras and, therefore, this makes them the favorites in these analysis. But isn’t it true that being a fossil species may not withstand human pressure since they have never had to face this problem?

It is useless to tell you that these organisms seem to be affected also by climate change, but I suppose that in the geological eras that saw them survive, this was still a factor already considered, even if not with the same speed.

Why stay comfortable. Why not look for another more SUSTAINABLE way to survive.

I am bitter today, I am confused and I am increasingly discouraged. The past can help us to understand the present and the future. It is not by destroying it that we will solve our problems. It is not by leaving it as an empty container that we could hope one day to fill it again with another past. The past has always been there. I have my doubts about “there will be”.

Maria Bruno

2 responses to “Is It a Prince or What?”

  1. Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog based upon on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.


    • Hi Micha,
      we have considered doing some similar things. However, since we are full time students and working on this platform as a part time hobbie, such projects will be elaborated in the near future. If you will still be interested, we will contact you. Thank you anyway.
      Entire Ocean staff


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