Heroic horseshoe crabs

The blue blood of horseshoe crabs contains a special chemical limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) that medical laboratories obtain from thousands of animals annually to detect bacterial infections in humans. The labs are only allowed to draw up to 30% of their blood once a year. Despite these precautions, researchers are becoming increasingly concerned that some animals may be injured during the process resulting in the death of animals after they are returned to the ocean. In fact, some researchers are pushing to add horseshoe crabs to the vulnerable list as populations decline in some countries.

In a new book, Changing Global Perspectives on Horseshoe Crab Biology, Conservation and Management (Springer, 2015) Thomas Novitsky (CEO of Associates of Cape Cod LAL company, MA) stated, “Evidence is accumulating that mortality of bled horseshoe crabs is higher than originally thought [29 percent versus 15 percent]; that females may have an impaired ability to spawn following bleeding and release; and that bled crabs become disoriented and debilitated for various lengths of time following capture, handling, bleeding and release.”

Scientists from Plymouth State University and University of New Hampshire published a study in 2014 in which they tested the effects of bleeding crabs and found that the animals showed abnormal behavioral and physiological effects for two weeks following the bleeding. A follow up study will examine the effects of blood volume drawn, the amount of time animals are out of water, as well as variations in temperatures. The team will observe the animals in the laboratory following a blood draw and will then release them into the ocean with a transmitter to track the animal's activity after release.

Sources:

Scientific American

University of New Hampshire Press Release

More like this

A horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus), photographed at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.This weekend I'm headed off to see the annual breeding explosion of horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) in Delaware Bay. During late May and early June, especially during the full and new moon, scores of the…
Transparent Adult Zebra Fish Will Make Human Biology Even Clearer: Zebrafish are genetically similar to humans and are good models for human biology and disease. Now, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have created a zebrafish that is transparent throughout its life. The new fish allows…
What Do Squid Hear? Scientists Learn How Sensitive The Translucent Animals Are To Noise: The ocean is a noisy place. Although we don't hear much when we stick our heads underwater, the right instruments can reveal a symphony of sound. The noisemakers range from the low-frequency bass tones of a…
Image from the American Physiological Society's website.http://www.the-aps.org/mm/Conferences/APS-Conferences/2014-Conferences/… I am really excited about the comparative physiology conference that starts this weekend in San Diego! Here is a press release about the meeting (author Stacy Brooks…