Why are horseshoe crabs essential to biotechnology?

First of all, let’s chat biotechnology, or, ‘biotech’, as those in the industry call it.

The concept of biotech has been around for ages, just, not given the fancy term. For instance, planting seeds to produce food, fermenting juice for wine and churning milk into cheese are all processes that use some derivative of a plant or animal to benefit mankind. In the biotechnology and pharmaceutical fields of today, the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) blood is a very important component in the process for testing drugs that can benefits humans.

Their blood is used for the  Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) test is used to test for gram negative bacteria contamination in certain products before being released to the public. Horseshoe crab blood cells (amoebocytes) attach to harmful toxins produced by some types of gram negative bacterias. What is unique with the LAL, is that LAL does not distinguish between living or dead gram negative bacteria and detects either.

You do not want anything with a gram negative bacteria contamination. Gram negative contamination include: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Neisseria meningitidis, Hemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumonia.

The blood of the horseshoe crab has this unbelievable property where it will congeal in the presence of either living or dead gram negative bacteria (both are undesirable). This adaptation has never been able to be duplicated and consequently horseshoe crabs are often captured to have their blood drained and then released, all in the name of science.

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5 fun facts about seahorses

English: Hippocampus zosterae at the Birch Aqu...

English: Hippocampus zosterae at the Birch Aquarium, San Diego, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  1. The female lays her eggs in the male’s tummy pouch, he then incubates them for about 30 days, then they hatch.
  2. Seahorses do not have a stomach; they eat constantly to help get enough food to digest.
  3. Seahorses do not have teeth; they have a fused jaws, so they kind of suck up their food like a straw.
  4. Seahorses can be an inch to a foot more in size.
  5. Seahorse species vary in monogamy.

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Is there seaweed in ice cream?

Some products need a little something extra to basically hold it together. Certain ice creams, lip sticks and even beer use a derivative of red seaweed, called carrageenan, to emulsify the products.

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Are horseshoe crabs dangerous?

No. I mentioned in the very first BCS blog entry that the horseshoe crab is a “sweetheart of an animal” and I will continue to defend that statement. Some people may think that the tail spine, or telson, is poisonous. What the telson is simply used for is to flip the animal over when a wave turns it onto its carapace. The tip of the telson is jabbed into the sand and the horseshoe crab rights itself over, somewhat like the act of throwing a javelin.

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What is sea glass?

Sea glass can be thought of as a well traveled piece of history. The hard substancesseaglass that you find have spent a considerable amount of time floating in the ocean. It has been tumbling along the sand and water for so long that that the glass, slate or what have you, has been polished by the sand grains.

Usually the brightly colored pieces are collected quickly by beachcombers. If you spend time investigating the wrack line you will surely discover some more subtle pieces – if you are lucky you will find some with faded descriptions of their original containers.

Photo (c) freefoto.com

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Why do we have life guards?

According to the Discovery Health Channel, it is estimated that 1 in 3 beach goers do not know how to swim. The rational is that if you were not taught as a child then there is a hesitation to learn to swim as an adult.

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Why does a sea urchin attach seashells to itself?

You may not notice it, but sea urchins have very thin tube-like suction cup feet, just like their close relative the sea stars. These feet are useful to grasp onto pieces of seashells, pebbles, or seaweed to disguise the sea urchin from other nearby predators.

Click on this post to see what eats a sea urchin.

But we’ve only scratched the surface here. Check back often at http://www.beachchairscientist.com for more insight about your favorite beach discoveries.

Is there any fish species closely related to mermaids?

As paleontologically-inclined artist and author Ray Troll likes to say, people—and by extension, all mammals—are just really complicated fish. Since mermaids are widely believed to be the optimistic misapprehension of common manatees by sadly sea-addled sailors, the fish species most closely related to mermaids would be…well…us, mammals.

Jim Wharton
Vice President, Education Division, Director, Center for School and Public Programs, Mote Marine Laboratory

Do all ocean animals swim together in schools?

Nope, here is a short list of terms used to describe certain groups of ocean animals when they congregate together.

Jellyfish swim in a smack.
Whales swim in a pod.
Herring swim in a seige.
Penguins walking together on land is called a waddle.

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What is the largest bony fish in the ocean?

Not to be confused with the question, “What is the biggest fish in the sea?” the largest bony fish in the ocean is the ocean sunfish. The biggest fish in the sea is the whale shark, but, sharks do not have bones, they have cartilage. Cartilage is the bendy material that makes up our noses and ears.

Ocean sunfish are made up of bones, just like us. They can be up to 2-3 tons (2000 pounds makes up a ton).

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