The Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) is a primarily terrestrial chelonian distributed across the eastern US. It has been proposed as a biomonitor due to its longevity, small home range, and reliance on the environment to meet its metabolic needs. Plasma samples from 273 free-ranging box turtles from populations in Tennessee and Illinois in 2011 and 2012 were evaluated for presence of heavy metals and to characterize hematologic variables. Lead (Pb), arsenic (As), zinc (Zn), chromium (Cr), selenium (Se), and copper (Cu) were detected, while cadmium (Cd) and silver (Ag) were not. There were no differences in any metal detected among age class or sex. However, Cr and Pb were higher in turtles from Tennessee, while As, Zn, Se, and Cu were higher in turtles from Illinois. Seasonal differences in metal concentrations were observed for Cr, Zn, and As. Health of turtles was assessed using hematologic variables. Packed cell volume was positively correlated with Cu, Se, and Pb in Tennessee. Total solids, a measure of plasma proteins, in Tennessee turtles were positively correlated with Cu and Zn. White blood cell count, a measure of inflammation, in Tennessee turtles was negatively correlated with Cu and As, and positively correlated with Pb. Metals are a threat to human health and the health of an ecosystem, and the Eastern Box Turtle can serve as a monitor of these contaminants. Differences established in this study can serve as baseline for future studies of these or related populations.
- Box turtle
- Heavy metal
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis