Maryland biologists have made a gruesome discovery. Native box turtles, salamanders, and frogs are falling victim to the deadly ranavirus. The ranavirus causes symptoms similar to measles and herpes in reptiles and amphibians. Infected reptiles discharge mucus from their eyes and nose while amphibians swim erratically and bleed into the skin of their abdomen, legs, and feet. The virus causes damage to skin, mouth, throat, stomach, liver, spleen, and blood vessels and the infected herps usually die within days of showing symptoms. “It’s a really, really, really horrible disease,” stated professor Richard Seigel, one of the biologist. Between 2008 and 2011 biologists found 26 infected turtles that eventually died from ranavirus infections in the Intercounty Connector construction site. They also believe the virus is responsible for the deaths of almost every tadpole and young salamander at a study area in the North Branch Stream Valley Park. Researchers are concerned with how fast the virus will spread to other herp populations. Read article.
Video of an infected turtle. *Warning this video is disturbing*
“A female box turtle exhibits gaping behavior as it attempts to breath. The yellow and black colored plaques seen inside the mouth and throat of this animal are signs of a potential Ranavirus infection and are caused by dying tissue. The gaping behavior being exhibited is the animal struggling to breath and trying to clear its lungs and throat of the necrotized tissue.” (Katherine Shaver 2012).