Leeches are one of the most commonly observed parasites of freshwater turtles. We used baited hoop traps to capture 433 turtles belonging to five species (Apalone spinifera, Chelydra serpentina, Chrysemys picta, Sternotherus odoratus, and Trachemys scripta) to determine the host (species, microclimate use, sex, reproductive stage, and body size) and environmental characteristics (month of capture, turtle abundance, vegetation, turbidity, pond size, and availability of basking structures) that affected leech parasitism in Illinois ponds. Leech prevalence on turtles varied significantly among turtle species, was highest on bottom-walkers and adults, and varied throughout the year. Leech intensity was highest on larger turtles and in turbid ponds. The results from this study display the importance of utilizing turtle assemblages for examining overall trends in host–parasite dynamics, demonstrate the influence of environmental characteristics on leech parasitism, and provide baseline data for future studies examining leech parasitism on turtles.
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Vol. 2008 • No. 1