Apr 15, 2017 09:57 PM EDT
The multi-million industry bleed 500,000 horseshoe crabs a year for medical research might drive the creatures, which has been around since the dinosaurs to extinction. The horseshoe crab is among the Earth's oldest creatures, but alarms have been raised that the ancient marine arthropods could be on a path towards extinction due to over-harvesting by biomedical laboratories. The creatures are literally being bled dry for their precious and distinctive blue blood that have an invaluable talent in detecting infections.
The horseshoe crab's blood is harvested for its clotting agent that is utilized by scientists to make Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate (LAL). LAL is used by medical researchers and scientists to detect Gram-negative bacteria such as E.coli in injectable drugs such as insulin, as well as hospital instruments including implantable medical devices, the Daily Mail reported.
IFLScience reported that the 450 million-year-old species have evolved to such a peak of refinement that they have become of prime value to researchers and scientists in the medical field. Compared to its mammalian equivalent, the horseshoe crab's blood has the uncanny ability to coagulate bacterial contamination for as little as one part in a trillion.
Aside from its obvious medical benefits, the horseshoe crab's blood is reportedly priced for as high as $14,000 per quart, according to Popular Mechanics. Every year, the medical testing industry catches about half a million of the creatures to bleed a third of their blood before releasing them again alive.
However, there is growing concern among many scientists that biomedical entities may be placing the ancient species in danger. There are currently no quotas on how many crabs can be bled. Even if they are bled for a third of their blood, the question is do they survive and are they ever the same?
The scientist's concern may not be ill-placed since global pharmaceutical markets are expected to grow as much as eight percent over the next year, while America's medical devices market is expected to grow as much as 25 percent by 2020, according to the report. This places how precious LAL has become, which would make the demand for horseshoe crabs to grow.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature, have already tagged the American horseshoe crab "vulnerable" to extinction last year, after creating a subcommittee to monitor the crab issue in 2012.
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