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

Annie Page-Karjian, Ryan Chabot, Nicole I. Stacy, Ashley S. Morgan, Roldán A. Valverde, Sydney Stewart, Christina M. Coppenrath, Charles A. Manire, Lawrence H. Herbst, Christopher R. Gregory, Branson W. Ritchie, Justin R. Perrault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


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 baseline health indices; (2) identified individuals with evidence of infection by chelonid alphaherpes viruses 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1036
Pages (from-to)21-35
Number of pages15
JournalEndangered Species Research
StatePublished - 2020


  • ChHV5
  • ChHV6
  • Enzootic
  • Haptoglobin
  • Hematology
  • Lung-eye-trachea virus
  • Plasma chemistry
  • Serology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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