October 29, 2021
Horseshoe Crabs are unique creatures found along the shores of southern New England. They come ashore during full moons to mate and lay their eggs, which are a critical part of migratory shorebirds’ diet. Humans have long abused them, using them for fertilizer, bait for eels and conchs, or just crushing them on sight. Then it was discovered that the blue copper-based blood of horseshoe crabs was the only source for Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL). This chemical could detect dangerous gram-negative bacteria in materials like vaccines. And the race was on to farm horseshoe crabs for medicine in huge numbers. But what did this mean for the horseshoe crabs? Therein lays the tale that is the heart of CRAB WARS: A TALE OF HORSESHOE CRABS, ECOLOGY, AND HUMAN HEALTH. Tonight on Inquiry we talk with the author and consultant for the NOVA Science Show WILLIAM SARGENT about his book that tells the tale of an ancient marine invertebrate and how it has become a critical part of human medicine.