The tiny world of marine animal diagnostics

Acadia the rescued loggerhead sea turtle

Part of the rehabilitation process on our animals is collecting blood and fecal samples. Through various diagnostics we can determine many issues that an animal may have.

For Acadia, our loggerhead sea turtle, we were concerned about her anemia, and by looking at a blood smear we were able to see that she was producing new red blood cells that will help with the anemic issue. The cool thing about reptile red blood cells is that they contain a nucleus unlike mammals that lose their nucleus in the blood marrow during erythropoiesis. Other blood smears may show lots of white blood cells (WBC) which may indicate an infection; our Kemp's ridley Crater lake had an extremely high WBC count.

The photo above shows the loggerheads blood smear. The yellow arrow is pointing to an immature red blood cell. Note the darker color and condensed look of the cell in comparison to the other red blood cells. 

We also examine fecal samples under the microscope as well to check for possible parasitic infestations. Jen, another biologist with the rescue group, collected a sample from Acadia and went and looked at it under the microscope in the Aquarium Medical Center with Katie, the AMC veterinary technician. They were able to find some cool things.

They found a copepod. Most likely this was swimming in the water. One problem with aquatic animals is obtaining a "clean" fecal sample as unless it is a formed piece or the animal is out of the water you may get other critters as well. They also found a ciliate, again possibly from the water but may have been in the feces. They also saw some nematodes. Nematodes are a typical gastrointestinal (GI) parasite in adult sea turtles. Because of their presence Acadia got a deworming oral treatment the following day.

Acadia continues to do very well!



1 comment:

  1. Great job guys. I check in often and enjoy seeing and understanding the expert work it takes to get these creatures ready to dive in the ocean again.

    Acadia looks great.