DURHAM, N.H. New research from Plymouth State University and the University of New Hampshire indicates that collecting and bleeding horseshoe crabs for biomedical purposes causes short-term changes in their behavior and physiology that could exacerbate the crabs' population decline in parts of the east coast.
Each year, the U.S. biomedical industry harvests the blue blood from almost half a million living horseshoe crabs for use in pharmaceuticals most notably, a product called Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), used to ensure vaccines and medical equipment are free of bacterial contamination. This lifesaving product can only be made from horseshoe crab blood, says researcher Win Watson, UNH professor of zoology.
"The crabs are very heavily bled about 30 percent or more of their blood is taken, and that's a fair amount," says Chris Chabot, professor of neurobiology at PSU and a co-author on the study. "Approximately 20 to 30 percent of those crabs do not survive, so we were curious if any of the surviving crabs experienced nearly lethal effects from the bleeding," he said.
The study, "Sublethal Behavioral and Physiological Effects of the Biomedical Bleeding Process on the American Horseshoe Crab," was published recently in the journal The Biological Bulletin.
With funding provided by a N.H. Sea Grant development grant, Chabot, Watson and lead author Rebecca Anderson, a PSU graduate student, replicated the biomedical bleeding process to determine the potential impacts on the crabs' behavior.
After capturing the crabs in New Hampshire's Great Bay and transporting some of them back to Chabot's lab at PSU and others to UNH's Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, the researchers monitored their movements for a week and then harvested some of their blood. Electronic data recorders called accelerometers that measure the crabs' speed and direction were strapped to their backs and the crabs were placed in running whee
|Contact: Rebecca Zeiber|
University of New Hampshire