Did you know that horseshoe crabs’ milky-blue blood is key to making COVID-19 vaccine? Their blood provides the only known natural source of limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), which can detect bacterial endotoxin. Endotoxin can be lethal if it makes its way into injectable drugs.
Every year, pharmaceutical companies round up half a million Atlantic horseshoe crabs, bleed them & return them to the ocean - after which many (unfortunately) die. But what we get is LAL, which has to be used in COVID-19 vaccine (to be sold in the US!).
Now, for some fun horseshoe crab facts:
- they've had the same basic body plan for 400 million years
- they have 9 eyes
- they were the main model species for the 1967 Nobel Prize in medicine in 1976, given to researchers working on the mechanisms of vision