Sunday, 3 May 2009

Blue Blood Crab.

I came across a very interesting fact about this sea creature my dad used to brought home sometimes from his deep sea fishing those days when he was a lot younger.
This creature when i first saw was brought back home by my dad during my early teenage life which during that time seems to me rather yukky but kinda interesting.
According to my dad when i asked why he brought back this creature, he told me that it was for some medicinal purposes, which i do not know what exactly he meant by that and never bothered to ask anyway.

In my mother tongue it is called 'belangkas' or in English they call them Horseshoe Crab.
It must have been none of my interest or i have got nothing to do with any sort of medical research whatsoever, my knowing about this creature's beneficial trait to the pharmaceutical world impresses me very much.

I remember there was even a Malay proverbs mentioning about this creature.
Because of its frequent appearance, or mostly when found on shore sticking to each another tightly, the proverbs relates this action to couples in love who can't be separated, so to say.
I am also quite imaginative though.
I am very sure the movie Alien vs Predator creator got the idea of how the Predator should look like from the Horseshoe Crab.
Look at it carefully the next time you watch the movie.
It does look yukky when you really have a closer inspection at their stomach area, and with five pairs of book gills, located just behind their appendages, this creature can breathe underwater while also allowing them to breathe on land for short periods of time.

Although most arthropods (this is their scientific term) have mandibles, the horseshoe crab is jawless. The mouth is located in the middle of the underside of the cephalothorax, with chelicerae located at each side of the mouth. In the female, the four large legs are all alike, and end in pincers. In the male, the first of the four large legs is modified, with a bulbous claw that serves to lock the male to the female while she deposits the eggs and he waits to fertilize them.

But what amazes me more is that the Horseshoe Crab has blue blood.
It is amazing that when they strapped them for the 'bleeding' session the liquid that ozzes out is actually blue when it is exposed to the oxygen.
Hemocyanin is colourless when deoxygenated and dark blue when oxygenated. The blood in the circulation of these creatures, which generally live in cold environments with low oxygen tensions, is grey-white to pale yellow.

The blood of horseshoe crabs contains the copper-containing protein hemocyanin at concentrations of about 50 g per litre. These creatures do not have hemoglobin (iron-containing protein like us human and animals) which is the basis of oxygen transport in vertebrates. This is due to change in color of hemocyanin when it is oxygenated.Hemocyanin carries oxygen in extracellular fluid, which is in contrast to the intracellular oxygen transport in vertebrates by hemoglobin in red blood cells.

The blood of horseshoe crabs contains one type of blood cell, the amebocytes which plays a good role in the defense against pathogens. Amebocytes contain granules with a clotting factor known as coagulogen; this is released outside the cell when bacterial endotoxin is encountered. The resulting coagulation is thought to contain bacterial infections in the animal's semi-closed circulatory system.

How important has this creature contributed to our pharmaceutical industry? Their enzymes are used by astronauts in the International Space Station to test surfaces for unwanted bacteria and fungi.
They have been contributing to our healthcare as early as 1950s.

So, lets put this two together; "blue blooded" human and blue blooded crab;which one do you think will be better off as God's best created creature?
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