Effects of blood extraction on horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus)
Walls, Elizabeth A.
Berkson, James M.
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Horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) are caught by commercial fishermen for use as bait in eel and whelk fisheries (Berkson and Shuster, 1999)—fisheries with an annual economic value of $13 to $17 million (Manion et al.1). Horse-shoe crabs are ecologically important, as well (Walls et al., 2002). Migratory shorebirds rely on horseshoe crab eggs for food as they journey from South American wintering grounds to Arctic breeding grounds (Clark, 1996). Horse-shoe crabs are also essential for public health (Berkson and Shuster, 1999). Biomedical companies bleed horse-shoe crabs to extract a chemical used to detect the presence of endotoxins pathogenic to humans in injectable and implantable medical devices (Novitsky, 1984; Mikkelsen, 1988). Bled horseshoe crabs are returned to the wild, subject to the possibility of postbleeding mortality. Recent concerns of overharvesting have led to conflicts among commercial fishermen, environmentalists acting on behalf of the shorebirds, and biomedical companies (Berkson and Shuster, 1999; Walls et al., 2002).