A Crabby Encounter

November, 2000

Jennifer Song was kicking her way to the library one day. She had an assignment to write a paper on horseshoe crabs-- whatever those were. As she inched by the science lab, she looked in the window and saw a scientist hurrying by with a wire cage in his hands. Poking out of it was a long brown stinger - like tail. She gasped and took a step back. "What was that?" She said to herself, feeling quite faint.

"That's a horseshoe crab." said a voice behind her.

she spun around took a jump back and said “Who are you?”

"My names Rob. and that was a horseshoe crab.”

"A what?"

"A horseshoe crab."

"It is? how do you know?"

"I know because I’m a horseshoe crab expert."

"Are you busy? Can you tell me more about them?"

"No, I’m not busy, this is my day off and I can tell you a few things about horseshoe crabs."

"Okay, I brought along my pad and pencil. I need to write a paper for school about horseshoe crabs I was on my way to the library but that can wait.

"Okay, but I have an idea. Lets do this reporter style - you take notes and ask questions and I will answer them."

"all right, here we go!"

Jennifer: Horseshoe crabs are just normal crabs right? What do they look like? Why are you so interested in them?

Expert: Whoa! One question at a time! This crab isn’t just any old crab - in fact it isn’t even a crab at all! A real crab has only one pair of claws, a horseshoe crab has many. Including its tail the horseshoe crab grows to about two feet long,and can weigh up to up to ten pounds! It can live up to 15 to 20 years. It’s brownish colored shell that is made out of chitin is its main protection. Its tail is not a stinger, the only things it uses it for is for turning itself over and it also helps it catch its food.

Jennifer: but other than how they look why are they so amazing?

Expert: Horseshoe crabs save lives around the world! We - horseshoe crab experts and scientists - catch them and then bring them all into a special room where they are given a special “treatment” that doesn’t hurt a bit. Then we collect their precious blue blood and let them go. Their blood is used as a bacteria detector for the medicine to make sure its clean, otherwise they might use a whole batch of bad medicine. That’s not the only way they help people: their shells are very helpful to people also. The shell can be stripped into soft bandages that help wounds heal faster. The shell can also be used as surgical threads by stripping it into bits and spinning them together. Scientists are still learning more about them. Scientists learn about them in many different ways. For instance some scientists tag them and send them out to sea. If you find a tagged horseshoe crab you should write down where you found it and them call and give us the information by the number on the card.

Jennifer: How long have horseshoe crabs been around?

Expert: Since the beginning of the world! That’s another reason why they’re so amazing.

Jennifer: Wow! They aren’t ever going to become extinct - are they?

Expert: Well they might, so we are trying to protect them. We found that we could use normal crab shells for things like bandages and surgical threads.

Jennifer: well now I have plenty to write about! I guess now I won’t have to go to the library. And I even know what my title's going to be! It will be about a girl named Hannah who bumps into a horseshoe crab at the beach, and then all of a sudden a horseshoe crab expert walks by ...

by Elissa Gathman