DAO 107:37-47 (2013)  -  doi:10.3354/dao02663

Prevalence of selected pathogens in western pond turtles and sympatric introduced red-eared sliders in California, USA

C. Silbernagel1,5,*, D. L. Clifford2,3, J. Bettaso4, S. Worth1, J. Foley

1Department of Medicine and Epidemiology and 3Wildlife Health Center, One Health Institute University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Davis, California, 95616, USA
2Wildlife Investigations Lab, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Rancho Cordova, California 95670, USA
4United States Fish and Wildlife Service, East Lansing, Michigan 48823, USA
5Present address: Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, San Diego, California 92109, USA

ABSTRACT: Pathogen introduction by invasive species has been speculated to be a cause of declining western pond turtle Emys marmorata populations in California, USA. This study determined the prevalence of Ranavirus spp., Herpesvirus spp., Mycoplasma spp. (via polymerase chain reaction of blood and nasal flush contents), and Salmonella spp. infection (via fecal culture) in native E. marmorata and invasive red-eared sliders Trachemys scripta elegans and compared infection prevalence in E. marmorata populations sympatric with T. scripta elegans to E. marmorata populations that were not sympatric by sampling 145 E. marmorata and 33 T. scripta elegans at 10 study sites throughout California. Mycoplasma spp. were detected in both species: prevalence in E. marmorata was 7.8% in the northern, 9.8% in the central, and 23.3% in the southern California regions. In T. scripta elegans, Mycoplasma spp. were not detected in the northern California region but were detected at 4.5 and 14.3% in the central and southern regions, respectively. All turtles tested negative for Herpesvirus spp. and Ranavirus spp. Enteric bacteria but not Salmonella spp. were isolated from feces. E. marmorata populations that were sympatric with T. scripta elegans did not have increased risk of Mycoplasma spp. infection. For E. marmorata, there was a significant association between Mycoplasma spp. infection and lower body weight and being located in the southern California region. This study is the first of its kind to document pathogen prevalence in native E. marmorata habitats and those sympatric with T. scripta elegans in California.


KEY WORDS: Chelonian · Turtle · Pathogen · Introduced species · Herpesvirus · Ranavirus · Mycoplasma · Salmonella


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Cite this article as: Silbernagel C, Clifford DL, Bettaso J, Worth S, Foley J (2013) Prevalence of selected pathogens in western pond turtles and sympatric introduced red-eared sliders in California, USA. Dis Aquat Org 107:37-47

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