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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 89:237-259 (2010)  -  DOI:

Spirorchiidiasis in stranded loggerhead Caretta caretta and green turtles Chelonia mydas in Florida (USA): host pathology and significance

Brian A. Stacy1,*, Allen M. Foley2, Ellis Greiner3, Lawrence H. Herbst4, Alan Bolten5, Paul Klein6, Charles A. Manire7, Elliott R. Jacobson1

1University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, Large Animal Clinical Sciences, PO Box 100136, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA
2Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Jacksonville Field Laboratory,
370 Zoo Parkway, Jacksonville, Florida 32221, USA
3University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, Infectious Diseases and Pathology, PO Box 110880, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA
4Department of Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA
5Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, University of Florida, PO Box 118525, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
6Department of Pathology, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA
7Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA

ABSTRACT: Spirorchiid trematodes are implicated as an important cause of stranding and mortality in sea turtles worldwide. However, the impact of these parasites on sea turtle health is poorly understood due to biases in study populations and limited or missing data for some host species and regions, including the southeastern United States. We examined necropsy findings and parasitological data from 89 loggerhead Caretta caretta and 59 green turtles Chelonia mydas that were found dead or moribund (i.e. stranded) in Florida (USA) and evaluated the role of spirorchiidiasis in the cause of death. High prevalence of infection in the stranding population was observed, and most infections were regarded as incidental to the cause of death. Spirorchiidiasis was causal or contributory to death in some cases; however, notable host injury and/or large numbers of parasites were observed in some animals, including nutritionally robust turtles, with no apparent relationship to cause of death. New spirorchiid species records for the region were documented and identified genera included Neospirorchis, Hapalotrema, Carettacola, and Learedius. Parasites inhabited and were associated with injury and inflammation in a variety of anatomic locations, including large arteries, the central nervous system, endocrine organs, and the gastrointestinal tract. These findings provide essential information on the diversity of spirorchiids found in Florida sea turtles, as well as prevalence of infection and the spectrum of associated pathological lesions. Several areas of needed study are identified with regard to potential health implications in the turtle host, and findings caution against over-interpretation in individual cases.

KEY WORDS: Spirorchiidiasis · Trematode · Loggerhead sea turtle · Green sea turtle · Pathology · Neospirorchis · Hapalotrema · Learedius

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Cite this article as: Stacy BA, Foley AM, Greiner E, Herbst LH and others (2010) Spirorchiidiasis in stranded loggerhead Caretta caretta and green turtles Chelonia mydas in Florida (USA): host pathology and significance. Dis Aquat Org 89:237-259.

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