Preliminary Blood Chemistry Results for Stranded Sea Turtles in Virginia
IAAAM Archive
Margaret L. Cook1; Robert George2; Wendy J. Walton1; Susan G. Barco1
1Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program, Virginia Beach, VA, USA; 2Aquatic Animal Medicine Consultants, Gloucester, VA, USA


In 2005, the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program (VAQS) conducted a pilot study on 24 sea turtles [17 loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and 7 Kemp's ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii)] that were stranded or bycaught along the Virginia coast between May 15 and September 19. Blood samples were collected from: 10 live loggerheads, 4 live Kemp's ridleys, 7 recently deceased loggerheads and 3 recently deceased Kemp's ridleys. When possible, 3 to 5 milliliters of blood was drawn upon admission to the VAQS Stranding Center, samples were taken 1-2 times during rehabilitation and just prior to release or postmortem. The plasma was used to determine a variety of chemistry values including: testosterone, LDH, magnesium, and cortisol levels for each turtle. Sex was determined through blood testosterone values and/or necropsy. Preliminary findings are as follows: testosterone levels for necropsied female turtles (n=6) registered as high as 54.5pg/ml in Kemp's ridleys (n=3) and as high as 40pg/ml in loggerheads (n=3). Testosterone readings for both live and deceased male loggerheads (n= 7) ranged from 142.4pg/ml to 1912.3pg/ml. Testosterone values for individual turtles fluctuated up to 820.4pg/ml over 48 hours. Cortisol levels changed with core body temperature changes. A minimum change in temperature of 0.3°F resulted in fluctuations in cortisol levels. When individual turtles were sampled multiple times, LDH levels decreased over time in the majority of the loggerheads (n=5) while LDH levels of Kemp's ridleys (n=3) increased with time. In loggerheads, LDH values ranged from 59 U/L-1060 U/L while LDH values for Kemp's ridleys ranged from 345 U/L-7560 U/L. Magnesium levels decreased gradually during rehabilitation for all turtles tested. Future data collected will aid in the determination of baseline blood parameters, sex determination, stress response and individual health status for stranded sea turtles in Virginia.

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Margaret Cook

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