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Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00185

The Role of Horseshoe Crabs in the Biomedical Industry and Recent Trends Impacting Species Sustainability

 Jordan Krisfalusi-Gannon1, 2,  Waleed Ali2, 3,  Kristen Delinger4,  Lee Robertson2, Terry E. Brady2, Melinda Goddard5, Rachel Tinker-Kulberg2,  Christopher L. Kepley2, 4 and  Anthony L. Dellinger2, 4*
  • 1High Point University, United States
  • 2Kepley BioSystems, Inc., United States
  • 3Columbia University, United States
  • 4Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, United States
  • 5ClienTell® Consulting, LLC, Anguilla

Every year the Atlantic horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) arrives on shore to spawn, a sight once taken for granted. However, in addition to the gradual climate changes impacting all ecosystems, commercial demand from the widespread application of Atlantic horseshoe crab blood in industrial endotoxin testing and steady use as eel and whelk bait has brought the future of this enduring species into question. In response, regulations have been adopted to enhance the traceability and record keeping of horseshoe crab harvest, which has historically been difficult to track. However, these regulations do not restrict or limit LAL harvest in any significant manner. Still, sometimes-lethal biomedical bleeding process and associated behavioral changes pose a risk to horseshoe crab viability after bleeding and once returned to the waters. As a result, regulators and environmentalists are concerned that current trends and overfishing of this marine arthropod will significantly impact the surrounding ecosystem. This review examines their role and recent trends in the biomedical industry that are impacting these ancient creatures and the derivative effect on shorebirds, while considering emerging alternatives where feasible, as well as ways to ensure sustainable and pragmatic harvesting strategies. Ultimately, healthy populations of horseshoe crabs are vital to restoring and maintaining ecosystems while balancing the need for medical and research applications entirely dependent on these unique creatures.

Keywords: Biomedical industry, Horseshoe Crabs, Limulus amebocyte lysate, Limulus polyphemus, Migrating shorebirds, Ocean ecology, ecological status, Red Knot

Received: 15 Nov 2017; Accepted: 08 May 2018.

Edited by:

Elvira S. Poloczanska, Alfred Wegener Institut Helmholtz Zentrum für Polar und Meeresforschung, Germany

Reviewed by:

Donald F. Boesch, University of Maryland Center For Environmental Sciences, United States
David Smith, United States Geological Survey, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Krisfalusi-Gannon, Ali, Delinger, Robertson, Brady, Goddard, Tinker-Kulberg, Kepley and Dellinger. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Anthony L. Dellinger, Kepley BioSystems, Inc., 2901 East Gate City Blvd, Suite 2400, Greensboro, North Carolina, 27401, North Carolina, United States,