With its armored shell, ancient anatomy, and 350-million-year lineage, the horseshoe crab almost seems too inconspicuous to stir up controversy. Yet this humble creature is at the very center of a collision between three completely different species.
For many decades, humans have harvested the horseshoe crab for use as fishing bait. Since the 1970s, we have also used horseshoe crab blood for medical purposes. But we may have gone too far. Horseshoe crab numbers have declined significantly since the early 1990’s. And, naturally, so did their egg numbers.
This is especially important to a small shorebird that is a global traveler of the most impressive kind. The red knot makes one of the longest migrations of any animal — a journey that takes it from one end of the earth to the other. To accomplish this feat, it relies on the eggs of the horseshoe crab. Without these eggs, the red knot is in danger.
In the film Crash: A Tale of Two Species, filmmaker Allison Argo tells the story of nature’s amazing ability to create fragile connections among the most unexpected creatures, and of our potential as humans to destroy those connections — or restore them.
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Online content for Crash: A Tale of Two Species was originally posted February 2008.