delware environmental institute

News Journal: Bait collaboration whips up formula to save horseshoe crabs

It seemed like an easy task: figure out the chemical that makes horseshoe crabs such a desirable attractant to catch conch and eel.

“Mother Nature was unwilling to give up her secrets easily,” said Ann Masse, global safety, health and environmental strategy leader with DuPont Co.

She is not the only one trying to unlock nature’s secret about the marine arthropod that dwells in and around shallow ocean waters.

“We looked at eggs, females, males, different baits, different presentations. I think I have a shelf full of notebooks,” said Nancy Targett, dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment.

Targett, principal investigator on the alternative bait project, along with chemists at DuPont and state environmental officials spent years trying to come up with the secret ingredient that makes horseshoe crabs such a powerful attractant.

“It’s taken us down a number of paths, some of which were pretty frustrating and some of which were pretty rewarding,” Targett said.

The teamnever found the secret ingredient.

Until DuPont chemist Rick Reynolds came up with a different approach.