Date of Graduation

Summer 2020

Degree

Master of Science in Biology

Department

Biology

Committee Chair

Day Ligon

Keywords

Alligator Snapping Turtle, aquatic turtle community, health assessment, hematology, plasma biochemistry, reintroduction ecology

Subject Categories

Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology | Population Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology

Abstract

Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) have experienced range-wide declines primarily due to overharvest for the meat market and habitat degradation in the form of damming and channelization of rivers. Head-start programs and reintroduction efforts have been initiated to release individuals throughout their historic range. Before releasing Alligator Snapping Turtles, sites need to be assessed to determine the suitability of habitat, if there is a robust turtle community already present, and the causes of the original extirpation have been eliminated. I assessed the turtle communities and documented anthropogenic impacts (e.g. boat traffic) at nine possible reintroduction sites in southeastern Kansas in the Caney, Verdigris, Fall, and Elk river drainages as possible reintroduction sites. Alligator Snapping Turtles were not detected at any of the nine sites in Kansas. The Verdigris River near Coffeyville, Kansas appears to be a suitable site to release Alligator Snapping Turtles due to the high aquatic turtle species diversity. A population of reintroduced Alligator Snapping Turtles exists on the Caney River between Hulah Lake and the Oklahoma-Kansas state border. I assessed the health of this reintroduced population in addition to a wild population and two captive populations. No individuals or populations were obviously unhealthy, but I found some hematological and plasma biochemical differences among populations—primarily due to dietary and ontogenetic factors. Further sampling efforts would be beneficial to fully understand the extent of the range of Alligator Snapping Turtles in Kansas and for identifying additional suitable release sites. The lack of negative differences between wild and reintroduced Alligator Snapping Turtle health further supports that this is a suitable species to reintroduce into its historical range.

Copyright

© Samantha Louise Hannabass

Available for download on Sunday, August 01, 2021

Open Access

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