This week I would like to briefly take some time to discuss some of the behavioral neuroscience research I do, which is with horseshoe crabs! Most of you may already know that they are considered living fossils, and even many more of you may already know that they possess blue blood. I mention their blood, because it is what makes them of quintessential importance to humans, and not because of the fact that it’s blue (due to it being copper, not iron-based). American Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus, blood is super important because of a specific compound found in it: Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL). This one compound is one of the most effective ways the biomedical industry uses to test medical equipment for the presence of various microbiological nasties, or in other words: this compound is how equipment is verified to be sterile (seems to be for specifically fever and septic shock according to the Charles River Pharmaceutical Company)
Although Horseshoe Crab blood is super important to us as humans, especially for those of us who require intensive medical care within the walls of a hospital, this species is listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, which is the organization responsible for the official listing of animals as endangered, extinct, and so on. The big two reasons for their vulnerability to endangerment are due to over extraction of their blood, because obtaining their blood requires bleeding them, and overuse in the fishing industry (Walls et al., 2002). So in light of all these cool, and semi-worrying facts about this living fossil, this is why I have chosen to work with this species specifically in my behavioral neuroscience research!
In the work that I specifically do, I look at the effects of environmental relevant concentrations of various pharmaceutical pollutants, within the aquatic environments horseshoe crabs call home–estuaries, on the movement of my crabs. In the past I looked at how fluoxetine, Prozac, affected orientation, rhythmic behavior, and movement. Unfortunately, not only is flouxetine found in the environments horseshoe crabs live in, it also has some statistically significant effects on their behaviors (you can see my poster here!). In my current study, I look at the effects of two anti high-blood pressure medications on the same behaviors in horseshoe crabs. Although propranolol and valsartan are also found in the places these crabs like to call home, they are not statistically significantly affected by these pharmaceuticals!
Although there is tons more that can discussed about these critters, like their hearty resilience to a wide array of pollutants including cadmium and cadmium (Botton 2000), I feel like I have lectured enough about this species for one blog post. If you would like to continue the conversation, or have any questions, don’t be afraid to tweet @KoreaEatsRice or reach me here at my contact page!