Assessment of Variation in Turtle and Leech Parasite-Host Assemblages in Middle Tennessee Wetlands Across a Disturbance Gradient
Prior research has established clear links between decreased reptile biodiversity in degraded or disturbed habitats, including chelonian groups. There are also negative impacts associated with high parasite loads on hosts, and previous studies found parasite loads increase with habitat disturbance, however there have been no published attempts to evaluate detectable sublethal health effects associated with this potential increase in chelonian ectoparasite (leech) load. Thus I assessed both landscape components that influenced wetland turtle species occupancy across an anthropogenic landscape disturbance gradient, as well as if leech loads varied across this landscape disturbance gradient in Middle Tennessee wetlands and if they follow measurable patterns of increased sublethal health effects on chelonians by assessing heterophil:lymphocyte ratios, packed cell volume, and host body condition. I sampled 19 wetlands from June-October 2018 and obtained data from three host species; Trachemys scripta elegans, Sternotherus odoratus, and Chelydra serpentina, and captured 922 turtles total. Collectively, the interpretation of these data may be used to understand how anthropogenic disturbance affects wetland turtle-leech communities and potential associated health implications.
Environmental science|Ecology|Aquatic sciences
Laura K Horton,
"Assessment of Variation in Turtle and Leech Parasite-Host Assemblages in Middle Tennessee Wetlands Across a Disturbance Gradient"
ETD Collection for Tennessee State University.