Inside of the primitive-looking Horseshoe crab is a powder-blue blood that contains LAL, an element worth about $15,000 per quart
Inside of Horseshoe crabs, the primitive-looking arthropods that can be found scurrying across the muddy and sandy bottoms of the ocean floor in shallow waters, is a powder-blue blood that you probably owe your life to. The blood, which contains an element that is especially good at binding to endotoxins, is a "surefire way to detect impurities in pharmaceutical drugs and medical supplies," according to a short feature in the latest issue of Wired. Shooting for the tech magazine, Andrew Tingle went inside of Charles River, a drug developer that is one of only five companies with the licenses required by the Food and Drug Administration to sell LAL (Limulus amoebocyte lysate), the clotting agent found inside of the Horseshoe crab's blood. His images, which can be found here, document how Charles River harvests the blood of the crabs without killing them. So, how do they do it?
First, a team of fishermen captures hundreds of the crabs when they come near the beaches of South Carolina to spawn. They're not very fast and they don't see the danger coming, so the fishermen, who are licensed by the Department of Natural Resources, can just wade around in the shallow waters picking them up and dumping them into a boat floating nearby.