Floppy flipper has been historically used to describe the primary clinical change associated with progressive paresis and paralysis of the flippers in sea turtles. Affected turtles typically die (or are euthanized) as paresis and paralysis extends to the neck and animals are unable to lift their heads to breathe. As a result, affected turtles ultimately drown. While the morbidity and mortality of this disease in free-ranging turtles is not known, outbreaks in captive turtles are associated with high levels of mortality in unsupported turtles. During the summer of 2014, the Cayman Turtle Farm experienced a mortality event involving green sea turtles. Clinical signs and associated treatment support the diagnosis of botulism although a definitive diagnosis was not achieved. During the reported outbreak, methods for saving affected turtles that included dry docking and supportive therapy were developed and proved successful in most cases. Based on clinical presentation, historical evidence, the absence of pathologic changes suggesting other disease processes and control of the outbreak with vaccination, we suggest that floppy flipper is associated with Clostridium botulinum.
* Presenting author