Abstract

Whole blood and keratin mercury concentrations, complete blood cell counts, and plasma biochemical health profiles were evaluated in 31 juvenile cold-stunned Kemp's ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In addition, plasma copper, zinc, selenium, and cadmium concentrations were measured for 16 of these turtles. Liver mercury concentrations were measured for 6 turtles that were dead upon acquisition or died during rehabilitation. Concentrations of 18 organochlorine pesticides were measured in plasma of 18 live turtles, and liver, kidney, fat, and brain of 3 deceased turtles. Metal levels were generally similar to those previously published for sea turtles, with mean values (wet weight) of 24 ng/g for blood mercury, 67 ng/g for liver mercury, 389 ng/g for keratin mercury, 690 ng/g for plasma copper, 2290 ng/g for plasma zinc, and 490 ng/g for plasma selenium. Cadmium was not detected in any sample. Organochlorine levels were generally low in comparison to values published for cold-stunned juvenile Kemp's ridley turtles in the 1980s. Several significant correlations between metal levels, hematology, and plasma biochemical health parameters were detected; however, the cause of these correlations could not be determined. This study demonstrates that Kemp's ridley turtles may be exposed to contaminants at a young age. Further investigation of the sources and effects of contaminants in juvenile sea turtles is warranted.

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