Presence and colonization of Placobdella on two species of freshwater turtles (Graptemys geographica and Sternotherus odoratus)

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2005

Publication Title

Journal of Herpetology


It is generally accepted that bottom-dwelling turtles have a higher ectoparasite load than turtles that bask aerially because of effects of desiccation on ectoparasites, especially with regard to leeches. We compared number of leeches (primarily Placobdella parasitica) on field-caught Common Musk Turtles (Stemotherus odoratus) and Common Map Turtles (Graptemys geographica). The bottom-dwelling species S. odoratus had more than 20 times the number of leeches than the aerial-basking species G. geographica. We then exposed cleaned (leech-free) turtles to leeches in mesocosms (cattle tanks) to measure the rate of colonization. In this experiment, S. odoratus had more than four times the number of leeches as G. geographica after 24 h of exposure, even though G. geographica were unable to bask under these experimental conditions. We suggest that desiccation threat alone does not explain the species-specific differences in leech loads on aquatic turtles.

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