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Chronic Debilitation in Stranded Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Southeastern United States: Morphometrics and Clinicopathological Findings



Nicole Stacy, Jennifer Lynch, Michael D. Arendt, Larisa Avens, Joanne Braun McNeill, Carolyn Cray, Russell D. Day, Craig A. Harms, A. M. Lee, Margie Peden-Adams, Kelly Thorvalson, Al L. Segars, Terry Norton


Chronically debilitated loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) (DT) are characterized by emaciation, lethargy, and heavy barnacle coverage. We examined and sampled 43 DTs from North Carolina to Florida for a broad suite of health variables using standardized protocols to further characterize the condition. DTs were grouped into categories of severity, and those that survived were sampled at four time points through rehabilitation. All groups and time points were compared among each other and to clinically healthy loggerhead turtles. Compared to healthy turtles, DTs had significantly lower body condition, packed cell volume, total white blood cell count, lymphocytes, glucose, total and all subclasses of proteins, calcium, calcium:phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio, potassium, lymphocyte proliferation, and greater heterophil toxicity and left-shifting, P, uric acid, aspartate aminotransferase, creatine kinase, lysozyme, and respiratory burst. From admission to recovery, hematology and plasma chemistry data improved as expected. The best prognostic indicators, as determined by correlations with a severity indicator (based on survival times), were plastron concavity, P, albumin, total solids, uric acid, lymphocyte proliferation, white blood cells, K, glucose, Ca:P, and packed cell volume. The results of this study document the wide range and extent of morphometric and blood analyte derangements in chronically debilitated turtles. Monitoring clinicopathological variables of these animals is essential for diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis during rehabilitation.
PLoS One


Caretta caretta, debilitation, hematology, plasma biochemistry, plasma protein electrophoresis, immune functions, barnacle bills, marine turtle


Stacy, N. , Lynch, J. , Arendt, M. , Avens, L. , Braun McNeill, J. , Cray, C. , Day, R. , Harms, C. , Lee, A. , Peden-Adams, M. , Thorvalson, K. , Segars, A. and Norton, T. (2018), Chronic Debilitation in Stranded Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Southeastern United States: Morphometrics and Clinicopathological Findings, PLoS One, [online], (Accessed June 25, 2024)


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Created July 9, 2018, Updated October 12, 2021