COMPARISON OF MERCURY BURDENS IN CHRONICALLY DEBILITATED AND HEALTHY LOGGERHEAD SEA TURTLES (CARETTA CARETTA)

  • Day R
  • Keller J
  • Harms C
 et al. 
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Abstract

An increasing in the incidence of debilitated loggerhead sea turtle
(Caretta caretta) strandings in the southeastern United States has been
observed in recent years. These turtles are characterized by emacation
and heavy burdens of external and internal parasites, and bacterial
infections, but the underlyng cause of their condition is unknown. To
investigate further the causes of these strandings, a health assessment
was performed on stranded, debilitated loggerhead turtles, and
contimanant concentrations in various tissues were compared to those
from healthy turtles. This portion of the study investigated the
potential role of mercury (Hg) toxicity in the debilitated conditoin
described above. Hematocrit, total protein, albumin, globuli, glucose,
calcium, lymphocyte counts, heterophil:lymphocyte ratios, aspartate
aminotransferase, uric acid, sodium, and chloride were altered in
debilitated loggerrheads relative to healthy animals. However, none of
the aforementioned healthy indicators correlated with Hg concentrations
in either red blood cells (RBCs) or plasma. The Hg concentration in RBCs
was 129 +/- 72 (mean +/- standard deviation) times higher than in
plasma, causing a significant dilution of Hg in whole blood due to
extreme anemia. Mercury concentrations in RBCs (73.7 +/- 21.2 ng/g) and
scutes (455 +/- 57 ng/g) from debilitate dturtles were similar to or
lower than those reported fo rhealthy animals, indicating no elevation
in Hg exposure before and during the pgoression of this condition. These
findings suggest that Hg toxicity does not play a role in the
debilitated loggerhead condition observed in the southeastern United
States.

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Authors

  • Rusty D. Day

  • Jennifer M. Keller

  • Craig A. Harms

  • Al L. Segars

  • Wendy M. Cluse

  • Matthew H. Godfrey

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