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MORTALITY INVESTIGATION OF MONITORED EASTERN BOX TURTLES (TERRAPENE CAROLINA CAROLINA) IN CENTRAL ILLINOIS, USA, FROM 2016-2018.

Authors
  • Rayl, Jeremy M1
  • Adamovicz, Laura1
  • Stern, Adam W2
  • Vieson, Miranda D3
  • Phillips, Christopher A4
  • Kelly, Marta1
  • Beermann, Michelle1
  • Allender, Matthew C1
  • 1 Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2001 S. Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61802, USA.
  • 2 Department of Comparative, Diagnostic, and Population Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Florida, 2015 SW 16th Avenue, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA.
  • 3 Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2001 S. Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61802, USA.
  • 4 Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, 1820 South Oak Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of wildlife diseases
Publication Date
Nov 21, 2019
Identifiers
PMID: 31750775
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Mortality events in eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) threaten conservation efforts across the species range. These events are often under-diagnosed and, when observed, predictive health factors are unavailable prior to death. At Kickapoo State Park in central Illinois, ranaviruses caused observed mortality events in amphibians and chelonians in 2014 and 2015. Following these outbreaks, eastern box turtles (n=36) were affixed with radio transmitters and temperature data loggers to obtain repeated location and temperature data from Spring 2016-Spring 2018. Bimonthly, samples of blood and oral and cloacal swabs were collected to investigate health parameters (hematology and cytokine transcription) and presence of multiple pathogens. Deaths of instrumented turtles occurred in 2016 (n=5), 2017 (n=15), and 2018 (n=2). The largest single die-off occurred in February 2017 (n=7). Seventeen turtles were necropsied and multiple pathologic processes were identified, most frequently decreased adipose stores (n=6). Two turtles had pathologic findings consistent with multisystemic inflammation. In addition, infectious pathogens were identified in turtles prior to death, but no single agent was associated with each mortality event. Ranavirus was not detected in any turtle. Hot spot analysis revealed spatial clustering at the center and edges of the study area for body temperature as well as for relative cytokine transcription of interleukin-1 beta, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and interleukin-10 associated with turtle death. Though no single causal factor could be identified, the information from this mortality event can direct future chelonian mortality investigations by providing baseline longitudinal data prior to death and in surviving turtles.

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