One of the most ancient of the creatures known to man is an ugly animal called the horseshoe crab. Their fossils are found in rocks that predate the dinosaurs. Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs, but are related to another ancient fossil animal, the trilobite. Trilobites became extinct long ago, but horseshoe crabs are still around and are found in many areas of the world.
Horseshoe crabs are not attractive. They are not good to eat. Outside of possible use as fish bait, they might appear to be useless to humans. However, their eggs are an important food for certain migrating shorebirds and fish, and horseshoes are food for the endangered loggerhead sea turtles.
However, the most important direct use for man is in the field of medicine. If you have ever taken a prescription, received an immunization, had a hip or knee replacement, received an organ transplant or even had an IV, you can thank the horseshoe crab for the good that came from that medical treatment.
When bacteria enter the horseshoes’s body, amebocytes in the blood immediately clot around the bacteria trapping it. Blood from horseshoe crabs is used to test for bacterial endotoxins in pharmaceuticals and in testing for bacterial diseases. If harmful bacteria are present, the blood will form a clot. Horseshoe crabs have been helpful in finding cures for diseases that have developed resistance to drugs.
All attempts to find a man-made substitute for horseshoe crab blood have failed. Horseshoe crabs are captured by medical researchers for the purpose of using their blood for testing. After bleeding they are returned to the ocean. Like humans who give blood, the horseshoe crab’s blood supply soon returns to normal. According to Dr. Jim Berkson of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at Virginia Tech, “horseshoe crabs are ecologically, economically, and medically essential. They’re not cute and cuddly and they can’t fetch a ball, but the fact is we need them.”
Human beings need all of the things God has designed into this world. We may not know the purpose of everything, but ultimately we will probably learn that there is a reason for the existence of every creature. Every time a “worthless” creature like the horseshoe crab is shown to be uniquely suited to helping humans in our survival on earth, we see another example of the design in the world around us. The Designer knew there was a need for this animal. We are more than “lucky” to have the horseshoe crab.
“horseshoe crab,” Wikipedia
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