Share

Share

The death march of the horseshoe crab

by Creation Museum on March 1, 2006

I can’t decide which impresses me more about this new fossil we acquired for the Creation Museum—the horseshoe crab or its personal “green mile.” An eight-foot-long trail draws my eye along the horseshoe shape of the rock, a breathtaking record of the creature’s last steps, including a place where the tail dragged and left a perfect impression.

If you’ve ever seen a modern horseshoe crab, you may notice that there is not much difference. I must admit I was not suitably impressed with the crab at first until I started reading about horseshoe crabs. After a supposed 300 million years of existence, spanning at least three hypothetical great extinctions, including whatever wiped out the dinosaurs, this creature has survived with little or no change. Unbelievable? Yes. True? No. I believe this amazing animal was designed by God a few thousand years ago. But it certainly is a survivor; on that we can all agree.

The Creator engineered a wonder of architecture in the humble horseshoe crab. Nine eyes, including two compound eyes, guide it through the sea. The telson, or tail, steers the crab while swimming and rights the crab when it gets flipped upside down. Book gills do double duty as respiratory and propulsion organs. Six pairs of legs are used for moving food to the mouth, swimming, walking, and even sensing the water chemistry.

Drug companies harvest the crabs, extract their blood, and return them (still living) to the sea. Horseshoe crab blood is incredibly effective at clotting at the first sign of toxic bacteria, so scientists use a chemical in the blood to test all injectable drugs for contamination. You can read more about the so-called primitive yet advanced immune system of horseshoe crabs here.

The other spectacle on this 8’ x 5’ rock, the trail the crab made before dying, truly sets this fossil apart. How could this delicate trackway have been preserved? The fossil was found in Schernfeld quarry, near Solnhofen, Germany, an area famous for fossils of delicate body parts. Archeopteryx was discovered there, and jellyfish, beetles, dragonflies, and many other creatures are also well preserved in the limestone.

Many scientists believe horseshoe crabs and other marine fossils found here were swept into lagoons with fatal conditions of high salinity and low oxygen levels. Because of the harsh conditions, the organisms that normally accelerate decay of flesh were absent, so dead animals could lay on the bottom of the lagoon untouched by scavengers until they were eventually covered with mud and preserved. But how does this explain the preservation of the tracks of this horseshoe crab?

A better explanation comes from understanding the history of the world according to the Bible. The fossil points to a watery catastrophe which stopped the crab dead in its tracks and buried it and its tracks. (See Death March for more details.)

I still can’t decide whether I’m more wowed by the crab or its tracks, but the good news is I don’t have to choose. We can enjoy the entire fossil in the Creation Museum!

Thanks again for joining us. We appreciate all of your prayers and support for the museum.