Increasing hatchling survival is an important element of conservation of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). Yet, there is little information regarding mortality-associated pathological states of hawksbill hatchlings. The aim of this study was to describe lesions affecting hawksbill hatchlings that died while under rehabilitative care. Forty-four turtles representing the nesting sites of two islands and a 7-yr study period were subjected to comprehensive postmortem examination. The most common lesions included dermatitis (34%), skeletal malformations (23%), and pneumonia (23%). Dermatitis and pneumonia were caused by a variety of presumptively opportunistic bacterial and fungal infections. Fungal infections affected 23% of study turtles, also causing rhinitis and esophagitis. Around half of the cases of dermatitis presented with history of skin lesions, and all those involving periocular areas had clinical history of eye lesions. Pneumonia was not predicted by clinical signs or time in rehabilitation. Malformations included carapace compressions, supra- or subnumerary scutes, and dysmelias with many of those affected having concurrent pathology involving other organs. Other lesions included bacterial yolk sacculitis (15%), skeletal muscle degeneration and necrosis (13%), and acute renal tubular necrosis (13%). The study population was female biased (93%), raising concern for skewed hatchling sex ratios and high incubation temperatures in the eastern Caribbean. The pathology described by this study improves our understanding of threats to hawksbill hatchlings and may be taken into consideration by clinicians when implementing strategies for rehabilitative care.

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