The Bronx River in Bronx, New York, US spans an area of significant human development and has been subject to historic and ongoing industrial contamination. We evaluated the health of freeranging native common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) and nonnative invasive red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta) in a segment of the Bronx River between May and July 2012. In 18 snapping turtles and nine sliders, complete physical examinations were performed, ectoparasites collected, and blood was analyzed for contaminants (mercury, thallium, cadmium, arsenic, lead, selenium, oxychlordane, alpha-chlordane, dieldrin, DDD, DDE, polychlorinated biphenyls). Complete blood counts and the presence of hemoparasites were determined in 16 snapping turtles and nine sliders. Swabs of the choana and cloaca were screened for ranavirus, adenovirus, herpesvirus, and Mycoplasma spp. by PCR in 39 snapping turtles and 28 sliders. Both turtle species exhibited bioaccumulation of various environmental contaminants, particularly organochlorines and polychlorinated biphenyls. Molecular screening revealed a unique herpesvirus in each species. A Mycoplasma sp. previously isolated from emydid turtles was detected in red-eared sliders while a unique Mycoplasma sp. was identified in common snapping turtles. Ranaviruses and adenoviruses were not detected. Our study established a baseline health assessment to which future data can be compared. Moreover, it served to expand the knowledge and patterns of health markers, environmental contaminants, and microorganisms of freeranging chelonians.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2