Despite extensive literature examining American horseshoe crab physiology, there are comparatively few publications addressing their medical care. Establishing anesthesia protocols for horseshoe crabs is integral to limiting the potential stress and pain associated with invasive procedures and for advancing euthanasia techniques. The objective of this study was to compare the effects of two immersion anesthetics, tricaine methanesulfonate (MS-222) at 1 g/L (buffered with sodium carbonate) and 2-phenoxyethanol (2-PE) at 2 mL/L, on horseshoe crabs. Twenty horseshoe crabs were assigned to one of two anesthetic treatment groups and individually anesthetized in natural seawater. Water quality, cardiac contractility, and hemolymph gas analytes were measured prior to anesthesia and at 30 min Animals were monitored via heart rate, gilling rate, and sedation score every 5 min until recovered. Transcarapacial ultrasonography was used to obtain heart rate, gilling rate, and percent fractional shortening. Light or surgical anesthesia was produced in 10/10 animals in the 2-PE group and 8/10 animals in the MS-222 group. There was no significant difference in sedation scores, induction time (median 15 min), or recovery time (median 20.5 min). Gilling rate and cardiac contractility decreased during anesthesia, whereas heart rate did not. Hemolymph pH and pO2 were not different among treatment groups or time points. Baseline pCO2 was higher than pCO2 at 30 min for both groups but significantly elevated only in the MS-222 group. This is attributed to increased activity during the handling of awake animals. Invasive blood pressure obtained via cardiac catheterization in two animals was markedly decreased during surgical anesthesia. In conclusion, 2-PE and MS-222 provided effective anesthesia with clinically useful induction and recovery times. 2-PE provided a subjectively more reliable and smoother anesthesia compared to MS-222.
American horseshoe crab
Atlantic horseshoe crab