Clinical Pathology Reference Intervals for an In-Water Population of Juvenile Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) in Core Sound, North Carolina, USA

Goshe, Lisa R.; Godfrey, Matthew H.; Mihnovets, Alicia Nicole

The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) is found throughout the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It is a protected species throughout much of its range due to threats such as habitat loss, fisheries interactions, hatchling predation, and marine debris. Loggerheads that occur in the southeastern U.S. are listed as “threatened” on the U.S. Endangered Species List, and receive state and federal protection. As part of an on-going population assessment conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service, samples were collected from juvenile loggerhead sea turtles in Core Sound, North Carolina, between 2004 and 2007 to gain insight on the baseline health of the threatened Northwest Atlantic Ocean population. The aims of the current study were to establish hematologic and biochemical reference intervals for this population, and to assess variation of the hematologic and plasma biochemical analytes by season, water temperature, and sex and size of the turtles. Reference intervals for the clinical pathology parameters were estimated following Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute guidelines. Season, water temperature, sex, and size of the turtles were found to be significant factors of variation for parameter values. Seasonal variation could be attributed to physiological effects of decreasing photoperiod, cooler water temperature, and migration during the fall months. Packed cell volume, total protein, and albumin increased with increasing size of the turtles. The size-related differences in analytes documented in the present study are consistent with other reports of variation in clinical pathology parameters by size and age in sea turtles. As a component of a health assessment of juvenile loggerhead sea turtles in North Carolina, this study will serve as a baseline aiding in evaluation of trends for this population and as a diagnostic tool for assessing the health and prognosis for loggerhead sea turtles undergoing rehabilitation.


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Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
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April 1, 2016