We performed clinico-pathological evaluations of 11 wild Agassiz's desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) from a translocation project in the central Mojave Desert, California, USA. Group 1 consisted of nine tortoises that were selected primarily due to serologic status, indicating exposure to Mycoplasma testudineum (seven) or both M. agassizii and M. testudineum (two), and secondarily due to clinical signs of upper respiratory tract disease (URTD). Group 2 consisted of two tortoises that were antibody-negative for Mycoplasma and had no clinical signs of URTD, but did have other signs of illness. Of the Group 1 tortoises, M. testudineum, but not M. agassizii, was amplified by polymerase chain reaction and DNA fingerprinted from two tortoises. Using light microscopy, mild to severe pathologic changes were observed in one or more histologic sections of either one or both nasal cavities of each tortoise in Group 1. Our findings support a causal relationship between M. testudineum and URTD in desert tortoises.
Additional publication details
Mycoplasma testudineum in free-ranging desert tortoises, Gopherus agassizii