Horseshoe Crabs are important, stop bleeding them dry: Find the Solution to Synthetic LAL Now!
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I am known on Tumblr for my post about the importance of the Atlantic horseshoe crab--100,000+ shares strong.
But the importance of these incredible creatures cannot be captured in a few words on a social media website.
The Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus Polyphemus) is considered by scientists to be a "living fossil," it is one of the only organisms that has survived without evolving since the age of the dinosaurs, 450 million years ago. They are also known as helmet crabs, and they are actually not all that closely related to crabs at all--they are genetically more closely related to spiders and scorpions, and they crawl around the surface of the ocean when they're not spawning on the shores of the East coast--most prominently on the Jersey Shore, Long Island, and Delaware, and even in the Gulf of Mexico.
Aside from their entire existence and history being prehistoric, so are their immune systems! Horseshoe crabs bleed blue (no, literally) because their blood is mostly made of copper--unlike that of humans--our blood is composed mostly of Iron.
Their blood, along with their really neat prehistoric immune system, contains a substance called LAL (Limulus amebocyte lysate), which coagulates around endotoxins and bacteria, detecting their presence. Since 1970, every pill, medical instrument or other tool used and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has undergone testing using horseshoe crab blood, which costs around $15,000 per quart.
These critters are super important to our health, but what about their health? When we extract their blood, we take around 1/3 of their blood cell count, and due to the old-fashioned nature of their circulatory system, it can take around 6 months for a single horseshoe crab to restore itself to its normal blood cell count levels. During the process of their "donation" to American medicine, it is estimated that 18% of horseshoe crabs die from blood loss and other complications related to the extraction process. While it is technically illegal to bleed the same crab twice (which is why they are often tagged by medical companies, to ensure that they don't re-collect that same crab,) it is still cruel to be taking these animals away from their homes and habitats, bleeding them out and leaving them to re-adjust their blood cell count. Their prehistoric immune systems and body processes cannot handle this, and because of this, their population remains in great danger.
Our scientific research and advancements in technology could certainly afford to find a synthetic solution to LAL. The health industry knows the chemical composition of horseshoe crab blood, so why can't they make a synthetic version? If they can afford dozens of quarts of copper-based blue blood, they can afford a synthetic alternative to bleeding these friendly, awesome creatures dry.
I am urging you to sign this petition to ask the FDA and the EPA to work together to minimize the amount of horseshoe crabs who are bled annually, and to work more quickly and efficiently toward finding a synthetic alternative to horseshoe crab blood/LAL. Horseshoe crabs are not only a really cool connection to our prehistoric past, but they are friendly and wonderful animals who contribute great things to our aquatic ecosystems.
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