Horseshoe Crab Bleeding

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Biomedical bleeding-induced deficits in the American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus

Christopher Chabot, Biological Sciences, Plymouth State University (603-535-2864); and Winsor Watson, Biological Sciences, UNH (603-862-1629)

The American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is a keystone species in many estuarine ecosystems along the Atlantic seaboard, including Great Bay. This animal is also of great economic value because its blood is used to produce a medically important product that is used to detect pathogenic bacteria. Although animals are released after they are bled, declining numbers of spawning Limulus females in heavily harvested regions suggests there are some deleterious effects of this harvest. Mortality rates due to biomedical bleeding range between 15-29%, and those that survive and are released exhibit both behavioral and physiological deficits. One of the main objectives of this study is to determine which combination of the three main stressors involved in the biomedical bleeding process (blood loss, increased temperature and air exposure) are most responsible for the observed behavioral and physiological deficits. A second objective is to develop alternative procedures that could be used by the biomedical bleeding industry to ameliorate these deficits. The results from this work will be communicated to both regulatory agencies as well as to the biomedical companies that are involved in biomedical bleeding.