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Blood from horseshoe crabs is essential for many drug, implant and environmental safety tests—but blood harvesting, together with capture for bait and impacts from climate change and habitat destruction, is threatening populations of these "living fossils." A review published in Frontiers in Marine Science highlights that these continuing threats will detrimentally affect the surrounding ecosystem, including migratory shorebirds who rely on horseshoe crab eggs for food. To enable a sustainable harvest of their blood for the biomedical industry —which currently is entirely dependent on these creatures for drug and environmental safety testing—alternative tests should be explored in conjunction with better harvesting and conservation strategies.
"The horseshoe crab has survived every period of mass extinction in the last 450-million years, but now faces its greatest threats: wild capture for biomedical testing and exploitation as whelk and eel bait," says lead author Jordan Krisfalusi-Gannon, an intern at Kepley BioSystems Incorporated, USA, and a student at High Point University. "This keystone species, which plays a unique and crucial role in the ecosystem around it, is also threatened by climate change and habitat destruction."
Scorpions - Spiders - Horseshoe - Crab - Fossil
More closely related to scorpions and spiders than to crabs, the horseshoe crab is commonly referred to as a "living fossil," having remained unchanged for millions of years. They are an important part of the ecosystem, found along the East Coat of America and Gulf of Mexico. Migratory shorebirds arrive to feed on horseshoe crab eggs during the spawning season, before continuing to northern breeding grounds.
The unique properties of horseshoe crab blood makes it invaluable for the biomedical industry. The blood is also increasingly used for air and water quality testing.
Krisfalusi-Gannon - Cells - Horseshoe - Crab - Blood
Krisfalusi-Gannon explains, "Cells in horseshoe crab blood are uniquely very sensitive to certain bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella, so they have been used to ensure the safety of injectable drugs...
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