Discovery | South Carolina Aquarium


Jul 28


Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)

Stranding Location: Charleston Harbor, SC

Arrival Date: 07/16/2015

Age: juvenile

Weight: 30.0 kg (~66 pounds)

Case History

This small juvenile loggerhead was incidentally caught in a trawl net in the Charleston Harbor and brought on board an education vessel operated by the SCDNR, the E/V Discovery. Once onboard, Discovery biologists took one look at this sub adult loggerhead and immediately knew something was wrong. The loggerhead we’ve named Discovery was thin, lethargic, and had old wounds to the marginal scutes (the sides of the shell). These concerns warranted transporting this turtle from SCDNR’s nearby boat landing to our sea turtle hospital.


Preliminary blood world confirmed Discovery biologists suspicions: this loggerhead was certainly ill. Blood values showed Discovery was debilitated (PCV -14% TS -1.2). After comprehensive admission treatments including antibiotics, fluid therapy, and vitamins, Discovery was placed in tank of shallow water overnight.


8 July 2015: After his first night in the hospital, Discovery started passing a massive amount of rubbery bryozoans (worm-like animals that live in colonies). This was a huge surprised for staff since most loggerheads prefer shelled prey, and we’ve not seen a loggerhead pass these basically indigestible organisms before. This may be an indication Discovery was scavenging, essentially feeding on anything s/he came across. A stomach full of bryozoans doesn’t provide any nutritional value, but may be the reason Discovery has had such a healthy appetite since being admitted. Prognosis is fair.

9 September 2015: Discovery is residing in one of three temporary filtered tanks we set up this year in order to handle the large influx of patients we’ve admitted (31 new patients admitted to date in 2015). This little loggerhead has a great appetite and is very active. However, we are not seeing adequate weight gain yet, likely due to this animal’s digestive tract not functioning as well as it should, a likely result of her debilitating sickness. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on this animal and adjust her diet as needed.

10 January 2016: Back in October 2015 it was observed that Discovery was not using his/her rear left flipper. Upon closer examination, it was apparent that the hip joint was limited in its range of motion. Discovery was taken offsite for a CT scan in order to better assess the potential damage. The results showed a fractured femoral head and separation at the hip joint. Due to the location of the injury it was decided by the aquarium’s veterinarian to allow the flipper to heal on its own. In the past month Discovery has been seen using the left flipper more, with increased range of motion at the stifle (knee). Although the hip joint and femur are not yet fully fused, we are confident that it will be functional enough for him/her to be released. Discovery will stay in the hospital for a few months, and a repeat CT scan will be taken this spring in order to better assess the progression of healing. Throughout the past few months it would seem as if Discovery did not receive the memo of being injured, as s/he remains one of the most food motivated and active turtles in the hospital!


23 March 2016: Early last month, Discovery went offsite to Charleston Veterinary Referral Clinicfor a repeat CT scan. The scan showed that the fractured femoral head was relatively unchanged. The joint did not appear to be fusing, as there was an evident lack of bone remodeling/proliferation in the area. Upon physical examination and observation, it is evident that there is more laxity than before at the hip joint. Discovery is able to use the limb well, and overall has fairly good range of motion. Due to the relative stability of the joint, and releasable blood values, Discovery was PIT and flipper tagged on 3/9/16. Once local water temperatures are conducive, we will start planning for his/her release!

16 April 2016: Discovery is patiently waiting for the local water temperatures to reach 70°. In order to prepare for release, his/her diet has been increased to 3.0% BW which equates to a little over 2 pounds of fish per day. STH staff will recheck blood work next week. Based on these results, Discovery could gain medical clearance!

Release Date

May 10, 2016

Release Location

Isle of Palms County Park

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