Effects of the Biomedical Bleeding Process on the Behavior of the American Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus , in Its Natural Habitat

Meghan Owings, Christopher Chabot, Winsor Watson
Biological Bulletin 2019, 236 (3): 207-223
Horseshoe crabs are harvested by the biomedical industry in order to create Limulus amebocyte lysate to test medical devices and pharmaceutical drugs for endotoxins. Most previous studies on the impacts of the biomedical bleeding process on horseshoe crabs have focused on mortality rates and sublethal impacts in the laboratory. In this study, we investigated the effects of the bleeding process on the behavior of horseshoe crabs after they had been released back into their natural environment. A total of 28 horseshoe crabs (14 control and 14 bled) were fitted with acoustic transmitters and released into the Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire, during the spring of 2016. The acoustic tags transmitted information about the activity and depth of each animal, and these data were logged by an array of passive acoustic receivers. These data were collected from May to December 2016 and from March to October 2017. Bled animals approached mating beaches less than control animals during the first week after release, with the greatest differences between bled and control females. Bled animals also remained significantly deeper during the spawning season than control animals. However, overall, bled and control animals expressed similar biological rhythms and seasonal migrations. Thus, it appears as if the most obvious impacts of the bleeding process take place during the first one to two weeks after crabs are bled.


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