Are Horseshoe Crabs dangerous? Can they hurt you? Let’s Know!

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Are Horseshoe Crabs dangerous?

No, horseshoe crabs are not dangerous. They are neither poisonous, nor venomous, nor they attack any humans of course.

They are very peaceful and kind of a shy natured animal. They are not at all aggressive to humans or other animals.

Looking at its long and sharp tail (also called telson), you may often think that it can sting as it looks frightening, but that’s not true at all.

Horseshoe crabs do not bite or sting, and they don’t use their tail as a weapon to defend themselves. Instead, horseshoe crabs use its tail for digging and to help turn itself back over, if it gets flipped over on the beach.

Moreover, it doesn’t have any teeth or jaw, so it can’t bite you at all, so there’s no chance of getting bitten by one.

They have small mouthparts for grinding food that is made up of a pair of chelicerae having small pincers that can do no harm to big creatures like humans.

They only feed upon small creatures like the molluscs, worms, and bottom algae. The are not picky eaters, they eat almost anything small they get like other aquatic insects as well.

Although they may look frightening due to their primitive style of the body that looks like a little demon, but in reality, it’s okay and totally safe to go near a horseshoe crab and grab one.

Their primitive style of the body makes them “living fossils” meaning they have existed and exist nearly unchanged for at least 445 million years, well before even dinosaurs existed.

Do you know that horseshoe crabs are not actually crabs?

Yes, you may need to fear a true crab if you don’t know how to handle one, but you won’t need to fear from a horseshoe crab as it is not a true crab.

A true crab like the coconut crab, ghost crab, etc. can bite you using its large pincers (claws), but a horseshoe crab can’t bite you as they have very small pincers-like chelicerae.

Horseshoe crabs are not actually true crabs. It’s better to call them a false crab. It’s a crab due to just its name, and not due to its role.

Crabs like Horseshoe crabs are not actually true crabs at all. They are much more closely related to spiders and other arachnids. So, they are not crustaceans.

In 2019, a molecular phylogenetic study also placed Horseshoe crabs in Class Arachnida as arachnids in the Subphylum Chelicerata..

Horseshoe crabs do not have a mandible and instead have chelicerae in front of their mouthparts.

Moreover, horseshoe crabs have no antennae, as true crabs have. Horseshoe crabs have 9 eyes, whereas, true crabs have a pair of eyes.

There are only four surviving species of horseshoe crabs found throughout the world’s oceans, some of which can be more than a foot long. And, neither of them are true crabs.


Can horseshoe crabs hurt you?

No, horseshoe crabs can’t hurt you. They don’t have that kind of a biting force, large biting pincers to grasp and hold on you, nor do they have any kind of a toxic sting to hurt you.

If you get in touch with the tentacles of jellyfish then it will hurt you. If you eat a poisonous crab then it may kill you. If you go near a true crab then it may cut you creating deep wounds.

But, if you hold, touch, or even hug a horseshoe crab then it will only try to crawl on you, and will give you a tickling sensation.

Although, they may try to bite you if you keep on holding and distracting on them. But, don’t you worry, as our skin and the upper body surface is hard enough to be pricked or being bitten by a Horseshoe crab.

Everything from the above looks like a hard carapace, and a tail coming out of its body. But, if your turn the crab upside down, then it may look intimidating due to its primitive kind of a body.

The third section, the horseshoe crab’s tail, is called the telson that may be quite sharp but not too much to make a cut on your upper body surface.

The long and pointed tail, although looks intimidating, but it is not a dangerous sting and is almost safe.

NOTE: Never pick up a Horseshoe crab by its tail, as it can harm the animal.  Instead, gently pick it up by both sides of the prosoma (upper protective shell) using both hands.


Why it looks so intimidating and frightening?

The body of a horseshoe crab is very intimidating and frightening, but actually there’s nothing to fear about so much.

Most people will often resemble a Horseshoe crab with that of a Stingray, but they are not. People often confuse horseshoe crab as the mini-version of stingrays.

Stingrays are vertebrates whereas, horseshoe crabs are invertebrates. They look pretty much different.

People fear stingrays because they usually have a sting, so when disturbed or stepped on by unaware swimmers then those persons can be usually stung by a stingray.

But, horseshoe crabs can’t use their tail as a weapon to sting you, although it may resemble the same.

The body of a horseshoe crab looks like a hard-shelled body with a long pointed tail coming out of it from the abdominal zone.

The upper shell part is its hard carapace. It’s really very hard but it is also very sensitive to the world around it.

It’s so hard like a slate rock that that stepping on one crab would probably hurt the bottom of your feet, and no doubt may make you cry out loud out of fear.

They have 10 legs (5 pairs). The body of the horseshoe crab is divided into three sections: head (prosoma), abdomen (opisthosoma), and tail (also called telson).

The head is actually U-shaped like that of the shoe on a horse’s foot. That’s also why it got its name.

The abdomen looks like a triangle with spines on the sides and a ridge in the center. The spines are movable and help protect the horseshoe crab.

At last, the tail is a very long and pointed, and although it looks intimidating, it is not dangerous, poisonous, or used to sting.

If you turn a horseshoe crab upside down, then the ventral body can look fearsome because of its primitive kind of modeling as it a 450 million years old species.

The ventral body may resemble pretty much like a little demon due to its primitive kind of a morphological adjustment due to the appearance of book-gills and the locomotory appendages.


Are horseshoe crabs edible?

Yes, horseshoe crabs are edible. They are commonly eaten in many parts of Southeast Asia and used as fishing bait very often.

In parts of Thailand, many delicacies of horseshoe crab salad and soup can be seen. The meat of the crab tastes too salty and is rubber-like when you chew it.

While there is little meat on the actual crab that can be consumed, so its roe (eggs) can also be cooked and combined with other ingredients to eat.

Although some species of horseshoe crabs may contain toxin. Research studies state that this neurotoxin may be present only at certain times of the year.

It was also stated that it is only present in the Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda or the mangrove horseshoe crab species that belong to Southeast Asia. So, better to avoid such kind of species.

So to finally answer the question, “Can you eat horseshoe crab?” The answer is YES, but why would you, as it costs a lot and can make you sick.

Moreover, don’t ever take the risk of catching one and cooking it all by yourself without prior knowledge and experience. That’s because to avoid poisoning and rule out the possibility of any toxic complications.

Just remember that it is safe for consumption only when the correct procedure for cooking is followed; that is only when it is cooked by an expert. It’s because expert cooks better know how to deal with it.


Why is the horseshoe crab’s blood important to humans?

Unlike our red-coloured blood, the blood of horseshoe crabs are blue in colour. That’s strange isn’t it?

But wait, it is also to be noted that each year, about half a million horseshoe crabs are captured and being bleed alive to collect that blue blood and bring its use in the various biomedical technology.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research.

Its blood is so costly that about a quart (946.353 ml) of the crab’s blood can cost you $20,000 approx. For example, the blood of the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) can cost very high.

If our blood contains White Blood Cells (WBC) then, the blood of Horseshoe crab contains amebocytes instead.

This amebocytes solidifies and clots when it comes into contact with endotoxins. Endotoxins are released by gram-negative bacteria and can cause fever including shock and death.

The amebocytes in their blue blood can release a chemical that causes the local human or other mammalian blood with endotoxins to clot.

Researchers believe that it is a great mechanism for isolating and removing dangerous pathogens.

Researchers discovered that a molecule in LAL called Factor C was responsible for its clotting action against the pathogens.

Thus, the blue blood of horseshoe crab due to the presence of this so-called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL), made it popular and costly as gold or more than this.

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