Hybrid the Hybrid!

Yesterday we received our eighth sea turtle of the 2011 cold-stun season. This turtle arrived at 65F from Eastham, MA. We were told the turtle was found trying to get back into the ocean and was able to be saved and brought to the Wellfleet Audubon.

We are definitely getting pretty original with our name of Hybrid for this sea turtle. Left is the turtle, right is Hybrid from the Spider-man series. Other turtles this season have been named Rorschah and Doomsday.

Wellfleet staff member Tempe holding Hybrid!

Tempe from Wellfleet brought the turtle up to us. It was very active on the ride up and during the exam.

Above Left: Intake exam. Looking into the eyes to make sure there are no abrasions or scratches. Above Right: We had already started removing the algae and sand from the carapace to look at scute counts. 

As we started our intake exam the coloration appeared to make this turtle a loggerhead. BUT... the head and neck just didn't seem right. So prior to getting a photo with all the mud and algae still on the carapace (top part of the shell) we started removing the epibiota to start counting scutes (scales)!

Photos showing how we determine species of a turtle if we aren't positive.

Why do we think this turtle is a hybrid?
In the photos above you can make out several odd characteristics. The photo on the left shows the first vertebral scute touching the nuchal and the 1st left and right marginal scutes. This is characteristic of the green sea turtle not loggerhead. On the right the scales between the turtle's eyes are called prefrontal scales. This turtle only has two of them. Only green sea turtles and flatbacks have two. Flatbacks are only found in the warm tropical waters around Australia so we can be sure it is not one of them.

Above left another photo of Hybrid from the marvel wikia page. Those abs of steel look like a turtles plastron and its scutes!

Above right you can almost make out the inframarginal scutes under the gloved hands of our volunteer Pat. The count on those could make this a green or Kemp's ridley species of sea turtle. You may also notice the barnacles on the plastron. We have been able to remove almost all of them.

Above: Two of my Tuesday volunteers, Pat and Mary, work to clean off our new turtle.

During the first turtle swim we were able to clean off most of the algal and mud cover on the carapace.

What is the turtle? Is it a loggeridley (loggerhead X Kemp's ridley, like this 2009 patient), a groggerhead (Green X loggerhead) or a gridley (green X Kemp's ridley)?

We will be sending genetics samples off to NOAA so they can speciate this turtle!

Today this turtle is in one of the bigger tanks and doing great!


Learn more about the 2011 rescued turtles
So far, the heroes and villains theme has also named turtles Nightcrawler, Jack O'Lantern, Rorchach and Doomsday. These turtles will be treated until they are well enough for release into the wild, then they will be returned to the ocean in warmer waters. See photos of a recent release in this post. Caring for all the turtles is a big job, and any way you can help is appreciated.


Giving Thanks for... Turtles!

It was a slow day in the turtle hospital today. No new turtles to report, although I was secretly hoping for a day like last year (see post here). I was still happy to spend the day with the five Kemp's ridley sea turtles we do have at the Animal Care Center in Quincy.

I came in this morning and checked on 'Doomsday' (#9) who has been suffering from severe anemia. He was still swimming well and bloodwork showed some improvement. Our wonderful volunteers, Erin, Kat, Sarah, and Zel, met me this morning to help out. The turtles need their Thanksgiving meal too! We spent the morning doing some treatments and bloodwork, feeding, and lots of cleaning of course.

I caught 'Rorschach' (#10) and 'Bishop' (#11) resting in the tank like this. They seem to have joined forces as tank-mates.

Since last Thanksgiving was extremely busy with record numbers of turtles stranding, most of us missed our Thanksgiving festivities. This year we decided to bring the holiday to the Animal Care Center and we had our first annual Quincy Thanksgiving.

Above, Dr. Cavin cuts the turkey. We were mostly prepared but had no cutting boards... for humans at least. We'll add that to the list for next year, but Dr. Cavin made it work. Thank you Dr. Cavin for organizing this get together!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us in Quincy!

And from the turtles too!



More Supernaturals Battle the Cold

We've been bracing ourselves for incoming turtles, but only two more have joined the super crew already at the Animal Care Center. Last weekend Doomsday (#9) and Rorschach (#10), both Kemp's ridley turtles, made their appearance in Quincy.

Doomsday came in in decent condition. He had a barnacle on his chin and was very alert. He swam well in the kiddy pool. A special thanks to the volunteers who drove the turtle up the same afternoon (photo below right show the volunteers swimming the turtle after his intake exam).

Rorschach was in much rougher shape. He came in with many abrasions on his flippers and plastron almost giving him a mottled appearance. He battled a low glucose in his first few days but is swimming and eating great on his own now. The photo below on the left is #10 at intake and the photo on the right is both #9 and #10 swimming in the tanks after eating very well.

We also have a new addition that came in today, #11, also a Kemp's ridley. The below photos are #11 during his intake.

Will #11 be a hero or a villain? Only time will tell.


Learn more about the 2011 rescued turtles
So far, the heroes and villains theme has also named turtles Nightcrawler and Jack O'Lantern. These turtles will be treated until they are well enough for release into the wild, then they will be returned to the ocean in warmer waters. See photos of a recent release in this post. Caring for all the turtles is a big job, and any way you can help is appreciated.


A Hero Joins the Fray!

Above is our newest Kemp's ridley Nightcrawler!

We received another Kemp's ridley yesterday bringing our count to two. This one was a mere 25 centimeters but was very alert and responsive.

Carapace with barnacles on the left. To the right is the small wound we found on the plastron.

The major problems that we encountered for this turtle were some barnacles on the carapace and a small older wound on the plastron.

Above one of our volunteers Mary is placing the turtle in for a second swim.

After triage the turtle was placed into the kiddie pool for a quick swim to help rehydrate, loosen sand and salt, and help kill epibionts (seaweed, barnacles) on the shell.

Swim turtle swim! Above the turtle is really active during one of its first swims. A very good sign that this turtle should do okay!

Oh by the way our other ridley is doing pretty good too. For all of you facebookers and tweeters out there we decided to name this ridley...

Jack O'Lantern!

Above is Jack O'Lantern (Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man issue 56, and several other villians from Marvel and DC)



A valiant effort!

On Saturday afternoon our Rescue team responded to a stranded leatherback sea turtle. With help from our partners at the Wellfleet Audubon and IFAW's marine animal rescue team, we responded to a giant leatherback in distress on a beach at Crow's Pasture in Dennis, MA.

In the photo above Dr. Cavin collects a blood sample.

While most of our blog followers know we are preparing for cold stun season, this 400 pound juvenile sea turtle is definitely not one of the usual sea turtles that cold-stun. Leatherbacks can actually regulate their body temperature to some degree and generally do not strand as a result of hypothermia. Leatherbacks are open ocean dwellers that very rarely strand on beaches.

In the photo above Dr. Innis performs an oral exam.

Oral exams are standard triage protocol. We typically find sand and salt in or around their mouth and nares. Prior to and during the oral exam this animal had a red tinged fluid coming from the nares.

In the photo above Dr. Innis, Dr. Cavin and Connie check the core body temperature while one of our volunteers times respiration rates on her smartphone.

Core body temperature, respiration rates/character, heart rate, body condition and wound assessment all provided crucial information regarding the health of the animal. This turtle was in poor condition with a reduced core body temperature, thin body condition and serious tissue trauma. If you look closely at her front flippers you can see the severe life-threatening entanglement injuries.

After completing the initial beach assessment, including evaluating the initial blood values, we decided this turtle was not a candidate for immediate release and needed emergency care. With help from Audubon, the Dennis Department of Natural Resources, IFAW and the animal control officer of Dennis, we loaded the animal into our rescue vehicle for the trip to our sea turtle hospital.

In the photo above Connie rinses the sand from the wounds and the turtle while Dr. Innis gets a first look at the injuries without sand and seaweed embedded in them.

The wounds of this animal were embedded with sand and salt, which, if not removed, will continue to rub against the turtle causing tissue breakdown and continue to irritate the skin.

In the photo above the turtle received treatment in the sea turtle hospital clinic.

Once in the clinic we administered emergency medication to stabilize the animal, continued to monitor vital signs and provided supportive care. On the left side of the photo above Dr. Innis can be seen getting fluids ready to give to our patient. Dr Cavin (center) is setting up the ultrasound machine and Connie is stimulating the turtle to make sure she is still responsive.

During the night the turtle had periods of unresponsiveness and her blood values began to decline. Dr. Innis and Kerry (pictured above) stayed with the turtle overnight and continued life saving medicine. Early in the morning they had to intubate the turtle as she had stopped breathing on her own.

We attempted water therapy as a form of stimulation in hopes of reviving her however the animal never responded.

In the photo below Adam and Kurt stimulate the animal in water.

Unfortunately, this story has a sad ending as our patient succumbed from the complications of the severe entanglement.



Trick or Treat TURTLE!

Now when most people think of Halloween, a few familiar things come to mind. Most people would think of pillowcases full of candy, toothless jack-o-lanterns, all sorts of crazy costumes, and of course the droves of trick or treaters coming to the door.

Here at the New England Aquarium's marine animal care center in Quincy, we had a different kind of trick or treater knocking on our door. Like most trick or treaters, it was well disguised and the costume consisted mostly of a thick green algae covering, along with a few small barnacles. Truly an eye opening presentation only mother nature could conjure up! No no it wasn't Swamp Thing, or the creature from the black lagoon.

It was a cold stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtle! THE FIRST OF 2011!!!!!

This juvenile Kemp's ridley stranded on Marthas Vineyard on October 30, was put on the ferry from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole, and eventually spent that evening with our partners at Mass. Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

The first cold stunned turtle of the year receiving its very first exam. When sea turtles strand from cold stunning, they will often have algae growing on them, as seen above on this turtle.

When this turtle arrived in Quincy, its internal temperature was a chilly 52.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Like their reptilian counterparts, sea turtles are cold-blooded. These animals, also known as ectotherms, rely on their external surroundings to regulate their body temperature, and to help them stay warm. So the first step is to slowly increase this turtles internal body temperature until it reaches 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. (We increase 5 degrees Fahrenheit each day.)

A temperature controlled unit helps us moderate the animals internal body temperature, and the turtle will spend its first few nights here.

These turtles need constant supervision and support during this time as they are very immobilized by their hypothermic state.

Carrie Thistle, one of the Rescue department's volunteers each Monday, supports the turtle during its very first swim session.

So now its day 2 and our turtle is hanging in there. Its temperature is slowly climbing and our blood analysis tells us that this turtle's internal workings are moving in the right direction. This ridley has had quite a journey and now its time turn in for the night at a toasty 60 degrees!

We have yet to decide on a name for the first sea turtle of the 2011 season, but I can tell you that our theme this year is, drum roll please..................................................... Superheros and Villains!

Until next time,