Sedation or anesthesia of hatchling leatherback sea turtles was employed to acquire auditory evoked potential (AEP) measurements in air and in water to assess their hearing sensitivity in relation to potential consequences from anthropogenic noise. To reduce artifacts in AEP collection caused by muscle movement, hatchlings were sedated with midazolam 2 or 3 mg/kg i.v. for in-air (n = 7) or in-water (n = 11) AEP measurements; hatchlings (n = 5) were anesthetized with ketamine 6 mg/kg and dexmedetomidine 30 μg/kg i.v. reversed with atipamezole 300 μg/kg, half i.m. and half i.v. for in-air AEP measurements. Midazolam-sedated turtles were also physically restrained with a light elastic wrap. For in-water AEP measurements, sedated turtles were brought to the surface every 45–60 sec, or whenever they showed intention signs for breathing, and not submerged again until they took a breath. Postprocedure temperature-corrected venous blood pH, pCO2, pO2, and HCO3− did not differ among groups, although for the midazolam-sedated in-water group, pCO2 trended lower, and in the ketamine–dexmedetomidine anesthetized group there was one turtle considered clinically acidotic (temperature-corrected pH = 7.117). Venous blood lactate was greater for hatchlings recently emerged from the nest than for turtles sedated with midazolam in air, with the other two groups falling intermediate between, but not differing significantly from the high and low lactate groups. Disruptive movements were less frequent with anesthesia than with sedation in the in-air group. Both sedation with midazolam and anesthesia with ketamine–dexmedetomidine were successful for allowing AEP measurements in hatchling leatherback sea turtles. Sedation allowed the turtle to protect its airway voluntarily while limiting flipper movement. Midazolam or ketamine–dexmedetomidine (and reversal with atipamezole) would be useful for other procedures requiring minor or major restraint in leatherback sea turtle hatchlings and other sea turtles, although variable susceptibilities may require dose adjustments.
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