Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Horseshoe Crab isn't a crab

I just donated my horseshoe crab painting to the Etsy collective, "Help the Gulf Coast," which donates 100% of proceeds go to Oxfam America or the National Audubon Society for gulf clean up efforts. More info can be found on their blog.

In case you are as fascinated by horseshoe crabs as I am, here are a few tidbits (more at this website):
  • This is a crab that isn't a crab! It is distantly related to spiders and scorpions. Its correct name is Limulus polyphemus.
  • The Limulus is a "living fossil" dating back to Triassic times, over 200 million years ago, a time when the first dinosaurs and primitive mammals appeared.
  • Its tail is NOT a weapon, but serves one real purpose: to help the animal turn over should a wave tip it on its back.
  • Limulus can reach maturity in nine to 11 years. At maturity, the female is larger than the male.
  • Because Limulus has a hard exoskeleton, it has to molt its shell periodically in order to grow. Many of the Limuli you find on the beach are not dead, but the castoff shells of molted Limuli. Once a Limulus sheds its old shell, it has a new, soft one that hardens in about 12 hours.
  • Limulus has four eyes - two small, simple eyes up forward and two larger, compound eyes (much like a fly's eyes) on either side of the shell.
  • Limulus has blue blood, a light blue. Human blood is red because it has a red pigment called hemoglobin which contains iron. The Limulus blood contains copper rather than hemoglobin thus giving the blood its blue color. The animal's blood also contains fantastically sensitive chemicals used by researchers in discovering harmful bacteria called endotoxins, sometimes found in human blood. In short, the blood of this ancient animal might well save your life some day.

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