At least 70 wild green sea turtles, Chelonia mydas, died in the Moreton Bay area of southeast Queensland, Australia over 6 wk in spring 1991. Based on the necropsy of 24 turtles, there was a severe enteritis or encephalitis associated with Caryospora cheloniae, a coccidial pathogen previously recorded only in farm reared Ch. mydas hatchlings. Infection was characterized by the presence of coccidia in extra-intestinal lesions. Oocysts were observed to sporulate, after which sporozoites escaped into seawater to form a novel stellate configuration. We conclude that C. cheloniae is pathogenic for life stages other than hatchling Ch. mydas and that naturally-occurring coccidiosis is a significant disease of free-living Ch. mydas.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3