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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2014, Article ID 748267, 10 pages
Research Article

Plasma Vitellogenin in Free-Ranging Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean

1Department of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, 808 North Pine Street SLU 10736, Hammond, LA 70402, USA
2Marine Resources Division, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, 217 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412, USA
3Department of Biology, Georgia Southern University, P.O. Box 8042, Statesboro, GA 30460, USA
4Department of Biological Sciences and Center for Environmental Research and Education, Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA

Received 18 November 2013; Accepted 15 January 2014; Published 27 February 2014

Academic Editor: Norman Ying Shiu Woo

Copyright © 2014 Kimberly Smelker et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Vitellogenin is the egg yolk precursor protein produced by oviparous vertebrates. As endogenous estrogen increases during early reproductive activity, hepatic production of vitellogenin is induced and is assumed to be complete in female sea turtles before the first nesting event. Until the present study, innate production of vitellogenin has not been described in free-ranging sea turtles. Our study describes circulating concentrations of vitellogenin in loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. We collected blood samples from juveniles and adults via in-water captures off the coast of the Southeast USA from May to August, and from nesting females in June and July at Hutchinson Island, Florida. All samples were analyzed using an in-house ELISA developed specifically to measure Caretta caretta vitellogenin concentration. As expected, plasma vitellogenin declined in nesting turtles as the nesting season progressed, although it still remained relatively elevated at the end of the season. In addition, mean vitellogenin concentration in nesting turtles was 1,000 times greater than that measured in samples from in-water captures. Our results suggest that vitellogenesis may continue throughout the nesting season, albeit at a decreasing rate. Further, vitellogenin detected in turtles captured in-water may have resulted from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.