Atlantic Horseshoe Crab

At Charles River, we are committed to the conservation of this extraordinary animal that plays a role in everyday health and safety of people all over the world. The Atlantic horseshoe crab is an invaluable asset to the testing of implantable medical devices and injectable pharmaceutical products to ensure the absence of endotoxins that can cause pyrogenic responses and symptoms of septic shock.

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horseshoe crab
Find out how the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab (HSC) plays a pivotal role in its ecosystems and its valuable contribution to the field of biomedical research.

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In 1992, Dr. James Cooper wrote draft legislation that promoted the conservation and regulation of horseshoe crab fisheries. As a result, the South Carolina state legislature enacted laws to protect the indigenous Atlantic horseshoe crab population.

Due to the importance of the horseshoe crab in the biomedical industry, horseshoe crab conservation efforts have increased overall. Charles River continues to contribute to horseshoe crab conservation by maintaining our commitment and compliance with the 3Rs initiative to achieve sustainability in endotoxin testing.

Learn more about how we are helping to ensure the continued population growth of the horseshoe crab.

Explore our Horseshoe Crab Conversation Efforts 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab and Horseshoe Crab Conservation

  • How much blood is collected from the horseshoe crab?

    Blood collection of the horseshoe crab occurs April through June, and during the collection process Charles River collects approximately 30% of the animals’ blood. Although this may seem like a lot, horseshoe crabs cannot bleed out due to their low-pressure circulatory system. In order to prevent an unnecessary loss of life, we do not take crabs that are injured, unresponsive, or that have open wounds.

  • What is horseshoe crab blood used for?

    Horseshoe crab blood is used to test implantable medical devices and pharmaceutical products such as vaccines for harmful bacteria from Gram-negative endotoxins. Charles River uses FDA-licensed LAL, the aqueous extract derived from horseshoe crab blood, to produce traditional endotoxin testing reagents and our rapid cartridge technology.

  • Why do you collect horseshoe crab blood and how does this help with horseshoe crab conservation?

    Horseshoe crab blood is collected by Charles River for biomedical research and for the production of Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate. LAL is used with bacterial endotoxin testing systems as it is the most specific and sensitive method available for endotoxin detection. Thanks to biomedical research and Charles River’s LAL production, horseshoe crabs maintain their biomedical legal protection, which prevents them from being used as eel and whelk bait and from overfishing. Without the need for LAL, this legal protection is not guaranteed, but as long as its protective status is maintained, the population can continue to flourish.