The Effect of Hemolymph Extraction Volume and Handling Stress on Horseshoe Crab Mortality

  • Lenka Hurton
  • Jim Berkson
  • Stephen Smith


We evaluated mortality associated with hemolymph extraction of 0, 10, 20, 30, and 40% of estimated hemolymph volume among low-stress and high-stress groups of horseshoe crabs. In addition to bleeding, the high-stress group underwent simulated transport and handling procedures associated with the biomedical industry’s bleeding process. Mortality rates of the unbled animals were not significantly different between the stressed and unstressed groups. Of the bled animals, there was a significantly higher mortality rate (8.3%) in the stressed group when compared to the unstressed group (0%), suggesting a possible synergistic effect between hemolymph extraction and external stressors. Within the stressed group, mortality was significantly associated with bleeding (P = 0.009). Within the stressed group, mortality was significantly associated with the amount of blood withdrawn (P = 0.009). Mortality rate ranged from 0 to 29.4% over the range of 10–40% hemolymph volume withdrawn. Insight was provided into the possible synergistic effect of blood extraction and external stressors associated with biomedical transport and holding methods on horseshoe crab mortality. Future strategies to reduce horseshoe crab mortality associated with biomedical bleeding must not only take into consideration the effects of bleeding but also the physiological stressors attributable to harvest, transport, and holding conditions.


Blood Volume Horseshoe Crab Recirculate Aquaculture System Blood Volume Estimate Biomedical Company 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission


Cambrex BioScience Walkersville, Inc.


Fishery management plan


Horseshoe Crab Research Center




Limulus amebocyte lysate



Sources for portions of this chapter originate from articles formerly published in Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology (see Hurton 2005 in References and as well as Fishery Bulletin (Hurton, L. and J. Berkson. 2006. Fishery Bulletin 104:293–298). This work is a result of research sponsored in part by the NOAA Office of Sea Grant, US Dept of Commerce, under Grant No. NA96RG0025 to the Virginia Graduate Marine Science Consortium and Virginia Sea Grant College Program. Cambrex Bio Science Walkersville, Inc. generously supplied us with horseshoe crabs for the study. We wish to thank Dr. Eric Hallerman of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at Virginia Tech for his helpful advice throughout this project. In addition, we thank Penelope Pooler and Keun Pyo Kim of the Department of Statistics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for their statistical counseling. A special thanks is extended to numerous colleagues for their assistance in transporting, tagging, and/or bleeding horseshoe crabs for this study: Vincent Caruso, Michelle Davis, Elisabeth Franks, Whitney Grogan, Dr. Dave Hata, Dr. Jay McGhee, René Olsen, Alison Sasnett, Mary Tilton, and Dr. Alison Williams. We greatly appreciate the time and effort of all involved.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and Wildlife SciencesVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Horseshoe Crab Research CenterVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.Division of Pediatrics, M.D. Anderson Cancer CenterUniversity of Texas-HoustonHoustonUSA
  4. 4.National Marine Fisheries Service RTR Unit at Virginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  5. 5.Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary MedicineVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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