Thursday 14 March 2013

Argh! Everyday Monsters! - Getting Up Close with the Horseshoe Crab

At first sight, the 'Horseshoe Crab' or 'Belangkas' in Bahasa Melayu looked like a foreign, out-of-this-world creature. If I happened to see the crab crawling near me, I would definitely run away - just as I would get freaked out seeing a cockroach in the corner of the room! Apparently, I am not a fan of creatures with more than 2 pairs of legs... and this particular creature has five!

So when I first heard that Petrosains has on display some horseshoe crabs at HotScience (the public science engagement space at their lobby at 4th floor Suria KLCC), I saw it as a chance to see the amazing but hideous creature up close and well, 'safely'.

As I walked into HotScience, I was 'greeted' by two enormous horseshoe crabs, the size of a large frying pan. Surprisingly I was mesmerized by the look of it. Unconsciously I walked straight to the two crabs, being brave by the fact that they are contained in a glass box.
The horseshoe crabs in the glass container - definitely a sight!
I had such an interesting day with the scientists from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (who were responsible for bringing the crabs to Petrosains!). Personally I think this is a wonderful effort by Petrosains in getting our local scientists to engage with the public. There are so many things that they shared with the visitors during the session. Knowing that they had been handling, sampling, researching and learning about horseshoe crabs for years was a revelation; the work of a scientist is definitely not contained only in labs.

I know there are many other scientists out there with so many interesting and mind-blowing work, I think they should take this kind of initiative in making their hard-work visible into something more engaging and meaningful to the public. From the way I see it, it was also a learning experience for the scientists. They had to attend to numerous unexpected questions and some had to even learn to communicate with visitors from all around the world.   

By my experience of observing and cowardly touching the 'alive' horseshoe crabs that day, I have come to learn that they are not as hideous, scary and dangerous as they appear to be.

I was told that there are four types of horseshoe crabs and amazingly, three out of the four can be found right here along the coasts of Malaysia.  The horseshoe crabs are also said very romantic for they are always found in pairs. Once they have met, they took the vow 'until death do us part' dead serious.

If I were to compare them to other sea creatures, I would say they are as gentle and as harmless as a starfish. And unlike the fast-swimming sailfish, horseshoe crabs are slow movers.  So if you happen to encounter this sea creature while strolling along the beach with your family and friends, don't be alarmed by their appearance. Instead, take the time to admire its graceful beauty and appreciate the diversity of nature that we have in Malaysia.  

Visitors get a chance to handle (with care) the horseshoe crabs.
Shared by Iman, Communications Intern at Petrosains

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