Kemp's ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) are an endangered sea turtle species found in waters of the southern United States and Mexico. Juveniles of this species are known to seasonally inhabit waters as far north as New England.1 In autumn, juvenile Kemp's ridley turtles may become debilitated in the northwestern Atlantic ocean as water temperatures rapidly decrease and animals are forced to shore by prevailing winter weather patterns.2,3 These animals are susceptible to severe hypothermia, a condition referred to as cold stunning.3 Cold-stunned Kemp's ridley turtles are often found stranded along beaches of Cape Cod, Mass, from November to late December.1,4,5 Common medical disorders of cold-stunned sea turtles include dehydration, metabolic disturbances, and pathological conditions of the digestive, neurologic, and respiratory systems, including pneumonia.5–7 A recent retrospective study6 of necropsy and histopathologic findings in cold-stunned Kemp's ridley turtles documented pathological changes of the lungs, primarily pneumonia, in 57% of cases.
Radiography is commonly used for evaluation of the reptilian respiratory tract8,9; however, most reports of its use are limited to clinical reports10,11 of individual animals. No previous reports have been published that describe in detail the radiographic anatomy of the lungs of sea turtles. The general radiographic anatomy of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) has been described, but only a brief mention of the radiographic appearance of the pulmonary parenchyma and pulmonary vessels is available.12
The purpose of the study reported here was to retrospectively evaluate the prevalence, distribution, and progression of radiographic abnormalities in the lungs of cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles. We also investigated correlations between these abnormalities and body weight, carapace length, and hematologic and plasma biochemical data.
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