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.

LLU Discipline



Earth and Biological Sciences


School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Hayes, William K.

Second Advisor

Boskovic, Danilo

Third Advisor

Day, Russell D.

Fourth Advisor

Wolf, David

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2011

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



Page Count

116 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

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.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives

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Biology Commons