BLUE BLOODED BARANGKAS
On my latest visit to Manong Valdez’s, I saw in his “coopantry” the Godzilla of crabs: the Horseshoe crab or Barangkas. Funny thing though, the Horseshoe Crab is not actually a true crab. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Horseshoe Crabs are more closely related to spiders and scorpions (arachnids) than to crabs. Maybe this explains why the underside of the Barangkas looks like something that came out of a horror movie. The research center states that the Barangkas predated the dinosaurs and the design of their body has changed little since the rule of the mighty T-rex. It says that presently, there are only four known species of the Horseshoe crab. One species is found in North America, while the other three can be found in Asia.
Everytime I see a Barangkas, I am always reminded of a soldier’s helmet, because this is how they look like when sticking out from the water or sand. I estimate the biggest Barangkas that I have encountered would be about ¾ of a meter in total length, with the tail accounting for more than half the length. I was surprised to see this specimen at Manong Wilson’s place because it was very near the ¾ meter mark. As I did not have a measuring tape with me, I had my son pick it up so I could gauge its size relative to my son’s height. Knowing that they are so much rarer now, I consider myself very lucky to have seen and taken pictures of a specimen that big. During my childhood, there were some occasions when we would literally run into a Barangkas while playing in shallow waters. It would raise up its tail threateningly in a defensive posture. This used to scare me. But now, knowing better, there really isn’t much that the Barangkas can do against a human being, even a small child. In fact, it would be more to its advantage if it stays still or plays dead, because the easiest way to handle it or catch it is to grab it by the tail. The tail, while having a sharp pinnacle at the rear, does not present any danger to anyone, unless you poke yourself with it or accidentally step on it. A word of caution: if you ever do come across a Barangkas, do not lift it up by its tail. This will injure the animal by tearing the muscles and connective tissues on the junction area of the tail to the body. This is particularly true for bigger and heavier specimens. Without a tail or with injuries on the junction area, the Barangkas cannot navigate properly. This is what I have observed with the Barangkas that I have rescued from local kids. They usually have partially or totally torn tails.
A Barangkas out of water, even with a healthy tail attached, has to exert a lot of effort just to crawl for a few meters. In the water, it is still sluggish but can move about with less struggle. Imagine a vintage war tank trying to navigate in the soft sand. That’s how the Barangkas move about. I have taught my son to handle it carefully, by lifting it up by the carapace where most of the weight is, and with the other hand on the side of the carapace or the tail just for balance. Aside from my personal experiences with the Barangkas, some of the knowledge that I have of this animal came from seniors like my uncle, a licensed medical physician and an entomologist on the side. He is an avid collector of insects and arachnids and he also has a few specimens of Horseshoe crab in his “lab.” He said that Horseshoe crabs have numerous pairs of eyes parts (except for the tail, of course). I do not fully understand how these eyes work and it never occurred to me to look for the eyes of the Barangkas that I have come across. I have to remember to look for the eyes in my next encounter with this creature. As for the general appearance of the Barangkas, I think it would be for the best for me not to explain it in writing. Not only that $% "of the magazine, some readers would probably imagine an entirely & this reason, I have taken a lot of pictures of it from different angles. The pictures i have are taken of two different specimens, both of respectables sizes. According to my uncle (and what I happened to catch on Discovery Channel), research centers in Taiwan and USA harvest the blue blood of the Barangkas for medical purposes. The blood of these animals has the unique ability to react in the presence of bacterial endotoxins, and this makes them invaluable in the medical field. There are issues as to how the blood can be harvested without causing permanent harm to the Barangkas, but I am not knowledgeable enough to comment. What I know for sure is that the old locals used to consume Barangkas as food. In fact, my uncle said that he has tasted Horseshoe Crab meat. He said it is a little bland compared to regular crab meat and sometimes has a bluish hue, which makes other people hesitant to eat it. While the Barangkas is not yet endangered, their numbers have been on the decline. In Asia, habitat destruction, human activity, and consumption as food are major factors. In more developed
countries, the major threats to the Horseshoe Crab are the unsustainable harvest of its blood and human activity. For people like me, who had regular encounters with this creature, we are aware of how much rarer they have become. However, the immediate concern is not the extinction of the Barangkas. They are such an important part of the ecosystem that a decline in their numbers will have a big and negative impact on other animals. Because of their reproductive behavior and the thousands of eggs they lay in a single mating season, Horseshoe crab eggs are an important food source to many kinds of animals. In some areas, they are a vital source of food for migratory birds, who need the important recharge after a very " " ' thousands of hatchlings are also an important food source for the sea creatures in the immediate area. For this reason, the importance of this animal, and the prevention of its extinction cannot be understated. Saving the Barangkas is also saving all the animals that depend on it for their food. A common problem of animals I have written about is that they are heavily Our apathy to our surroundings and our irresponsible lifestyles are causing these animals to struggle just to exist. Seemingly innocent activities such as riding motorcycles on the sand, beach partying, or transferring sand from the beach to our backyard playgrounds are actually detrimental to the ecosystem. The absence of regulation on the use of anchors in famous locations such as El Nido and Honda Bay is also a major cause of harm. Corals and sand dwelling creatures are threatened by the indiscriminate dropping of anchors. I hope each of us will try to be a little more sensitive as to what we do during our excursions. Going back to this impressive specimen of Barangkas, I am glad to point out that we were able to convince Manong to release this living fossil back to the water "
Horseshoe crab crawling