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ESR 42:21-35 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01036

Comprehensive health assessment of green turtles Chelonia mydas nesting in southeastern Florida, USA

Annie Page-Karjian1,*, Ryan Chabot2, Nicole I. Stacy3, Ashley S. Morgan1, Roldán A. Valverde4,5, Sydney Stewart4, Christina M. Coppenrath6, Charles A. Manire6, Lawrence H. Herbst7, Christopher R. Gregory8, Branson W. Ritchie8, Justin R. Perrault6

1Florida Atlantic University, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Fort Pierce, Florida 34946, USA
2Inwater Research Group, Jensen Beach, Florida 34957, USA
3Aquatic, Amphibian, and Reptile Pathology Program, Department of Comparative, Diagnostic, and Population Medicine, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Gainesville, Florida 32608, USA
4Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana 70402, USA
5Sea Turtle Conservancy, Gainesville, Florida 32609, USA
6Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Juno Beach, Florida 33408, USA
7Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA
8Infectious Diseases Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Important indicators of population health needed for large-scale sea turtle population recovery efforts include demographics, disease and mortality trends, condition indices, and baseline blood data. With this comprehensive health assessment of adult female green sea turtles Chelonia mydas nesting on Juno Beach, Florida, USA, we (1) established comprehensive baseline health indices; (2) identified individuals with evidence of infection by chelonid alphaherpesviruses 5 and 6 (ChHV5, ChHV6), which are implicated in fibropapillomatosis and respiratory and skin disease, respectively; and (3) compared measured health indices between turtles that did versus those that did not test positive for ChHV5 and/or ChHV6. All 60 turtles included in the study were in good body condition with no external fibropapillomatosis tumors. Hematological and biochemical reference intervals were established. Via quantitative PCR (qPCR), 5/60 turtles (8%) tested positive for ChHV5, and all turtles were negative for ChHV6. Of 41 turtles tested for antibodies to ChHV5 and ChHV6, 29% and 15% tested positive, respectively, and 10% tested positive for antibodies to both viruses. Notably, there were no statistically significant differences between health variables for nesting turtles that tested positive for ChHV5 DNA versus those that tested negative; and also no differences between turtles that tested positive for ChHV5 or ChHV6 antibodies and those that did not. This suggests that these viruses are enzootically stable in Florida’s adult green turtles. This study provides a health profile of nesting green turtles in southeastern Florida applicable to temporal and spatial investigations of this and other populations.


KEY WORDS: ChHV5 · ChHV6 · Lung-eye-trachea virus · Serology · Enzootic · Hematology · Plasma chemistry · Haptoglobin


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Cite this article as: Page-Karjian A, Chabot R, Stacy NI, Morgan AS and others (2020) Comprehensive health assessment of green turtles Chelonia mydas nesting in southeastern Florida, USA. Endang Species Res 42:21-35. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01036

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