Clinical Evaluation, Common Diseases, and Veterinary Care of the Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus



The American horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus, can be maintained in a wide variety of systems ranging from glass aquaria to fiberglass tanks with various types of mechanical and biological filtration. Adult horseshoe crabs are tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, with temperatures ranging from –5 to 35°C and salinities from 5 to 35 ppt, with optimal conditions between 15 and 21°C and 27 ppt salinity. Horseshoe crabs should be fed good-quality dead fish, squid, small crabs, clams, frozen brine shrimp, and artificial shrimp/fish diets. Clinical evaluation of a horseshoe crab can be problematic as the hard carapace makes examination and sample collection difficult; however, non-lethal clinical assessment can include external examination, radiology, and hemolymph chemistries and cultures. Biochemical parameters of the horseshoe crab’s hemolymph parallel those seen in many other marine species, but several parameters are notably different from ambient seawater, i.e., calcium, magnesium. Survey and contrast radiographic studies of the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems of the horseshoe crab can be undertaken using conventional and fluoroscopic techniques. Infectious etiologies include algae, fungus, colonial and filamentous cyanobacteria, Gram-negative bacteria, and a variety of protozoan and metazoan parasites. Non-infectious problems range from water quality problems to developmental syndromes and traumatic injuries. Little is known of the therapeutic options for treatment of horseshoe crab diseases; however, a few treatments have been suggested for the removal of ectocommensals and external parasites, and the pharmacokinetics of oxytetracycline following intracardiac and oral dosing have recently been investigated.


Horseshoe Crab Digenetic Trematode Dermal Gland Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Internal Viscus 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NYC Veterinary Specialists and Cancer Treatment CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary MedicineVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.Horseshoe Crab Research CenterVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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