Historically, heavy metal research on sea turtles has been focused on deceased specimens, limiting the ability to determine if the concentrations of heavy metals affected the health of the individuals. More recently, the collection and analysis of blood samples from live turtles has enabled the researcher to investigate the potential health implications of observed metal concentrations. In this thesis, I present two original studies on the blood concentrations of essential and non-essential heavy metals and their potential physiological correlates on the endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta). This work reflects analysis of archived samples collected in 2008 off the southeastern coast of the United States by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). Research was funded in part by the Office of Protected Resources and NOAA Fisheries. Samples were obtained through the generous support of Rusty D. Day, MSc. The first study examined the relationships between body size, sex, geographic location, water depth, and blood concentration of 17 essential and non-essential heavy metals and metalloids. Statistical analysis of these parameters indicated that measures of body size were correlated with several of the metals, whereas sex had no significant relationship with any of the metals examined. Several metal concentrations also varied with geographic location and depth of water in which the turtles were captured. The second study examined the potential health effects of these pollutants in C. caretta. Regression analyses were used to compare physiological (blood) parameters to metal concentrations. The significant associations between several physiological parameters and several nonessential toxic metals suggest that heavy metal pollution may influence the physiology and, potentially, the health of sea turtles. However, this study is limited in that it can only identify associations and cannot discern causal relationships. Therefore, further research is needed to clarify the effects heavy metal pollution may have on sea turtle health. A better understanding of the effects of heavy metal pollution on health in this endangered species will facilitate more effective monitoring and protection in the future, enabling us to more effectively conserve these fascinating creatures.
Earth and Biological Sciences
School of Science and Technology
Hayes, William K.
Day, Russell D.
Master of Science (MS)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Environmental Pollution; Metals -- analysis; Metals - toxicity; Loggerhead turtle - physiology
Subject - Local
Heavy metal pollution, Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Register, Ashley L., "Effects of Heavy Metal Pollution on the Loggerhead Sea Turtle" (2011). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. Paper 58.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives