Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bet You Didn't Know....

That there is a very unique and fragile relationship among horseshoe crabs and a shore bird called the Red Knot? This is sort of an extension of yesterday's blog about things that make you go, "Hmmph! I didn't know that!" I read an article while we were in South Carolina, and I'm sorry that I don't remember the name of the publication, nor the author, but it impressed me so much, I wanted to share what I remember. So I brushed up a little on my research about these two creatures, as my 62 year old memory is not what it used to be.

When you travel full time in an RV, you get to see the most amazing things...the most beautiful sights in nature, the most incredible views, but not as often do you know the stories behind what you are seeing until a naturalist, National Geographic video or other expert on TV shares the incredible plan and its intricate workings that God has made for our world. And so here is the story....

Ever see one of these? The first time I saw one washed up on the beach, I had no idea what it was. It's a horseshoe crab.

The horseshoe crab has been around for millions of years. It doesn't have pinchers, a stinger or venom to protect itself. It has something very special in its blood, which is blue because of copper inside that carries the blood instead of hemoglobin. Quarts of the horseshoe crab's blood can sell for $15,000! Why? Because in their blood is a compound called LAL, and in a nutshell, it clots around viruses, endotoxins and bacteria. LAL is the worldwide standard screening test for bacterial contamination. All intravenous drugs are tested with LAL before FDA approval. There's quite an industry, like 50 million dollars devoted to harvesting horseshoe crabs, "bleeding" them, and returning them to the sea and they are used as bait for catching other seafood like eel, which is not so good. For more information on how they harvest horseshoe crabs for medicine, see this link....

But the horseshoe crab population is declining rapidly, and that's affecting the population of the shore bird, the Red Knot just as much. The Red Knot is an endangered bird about the size of a mourning dove that depends on the eggs of the horseshoe crab to survive a flight to the Arctic tundra. It flies about 20,000 miles a year from the southern tip of South America to the Arctic tundra on its migration journey. It rests in Delaware Bay for a short while to feed and gain weight for its long journey where horseshoe crabs are located. When the moon and spring season cause the crabs to spawn, there is a window of about two weeks before the eggs hatch and the babies go out to sea.  The Red Knots have only that two week time span to find the crab eggs so they can double their flying weight.

There are efforts in South Carolina to help protect these two species which have significantly declined. If you find one that's tagged, the Fish and Wildlife Service wants to know about it. South Carolina has passed a law that prohibits using horseshoe crabs for bait, so that is helping other states come up with plans for managing these two populations....It's an interesting story, don't you think? There are many more fascinating stories to be told. Sparky wishes she had trained to be a naturalist in her other life because there are so many things that make her go, "Hmmph! I didn't know that!"


  1. You go Sparky. . .you taught me something new today. . .and I love to learn something new everyday. . .so thanks for a great story!


  2. Great post... Nature IS Amazing!!!

  3. I've seen LOTS of horseshoe crabs, but never knew that. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Saw a horseshoe crab for the first time when we visited Siesta Key ... didn't know about the relationship with the bird. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Very interesting post. Had no idea about the ties between crab and bird. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Everything in this world is connected in some way. Nice example!

  7. You're right! I didn't know that, but thanks to your interesting post, now I do. Thanks.