Mortality of captive tortoises due to viviparous nematodes of the genus Proatractis (Family Atractidae).

B. A. Rideout, R. J. Montali, L. G. Phillips, C. H. Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Between September 1982 and January 1984, verminous colitis was diagnosed post mortem in eight red-footed tortoises (Geochelone carbonaria) and three leopard tortoises (Geochelone pardalis) from the reptile collection of the National Zoological Park. This represented 69% of 16 tortoise necropsy accessions for that period. Etiology was determined to be a viviparous pinworm-like nematode of the genus Proatractis (Family Atractidae). Clinical signs were either nonspecific, consisting of anorexia, lethargy, and depression, or were absent. Limited trials with piperazine citrate and fenbendazole appeared to be ineffectual against the parasite and supportive therapy was unsuccessful. Post mortem examination revealed roughening and thickening of the mucosa of the cecum and colon, and in severe cases myriads of tiny (0.5-1.0 cm) nematodes were evident on the mucosal surface. In six tortoises, worms were found also in the small intestine. Histopathologic features in severe cases included mucosal necrosis with parasites and mixed inflammatory cells extending into the tunica muscularis. Focal to diffuse lymphoplasmacytic infiltrates were present consistently in the submucosa of the cecum and colon, and similar but milder lesions occasionally occurred in the small intestine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-108
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of wildlife diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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