Effects of upper respiratory tract disease on the demographics of a gopher tortoise (<i>Gopherus polyphemus</i>) population in south Florida
Upper Respiratory Tract Disease is a highly contagious bacteria observed in gopher tortoise populations in Florida as early as 1989. In this study, 40 plasma samples were collected from a population to determine the effects on different age classes and genders. Results suggest adults are more susceptible to the disease and there is not a significant difference in the number of infected males and females. All subadults tested in this population were free of the disease. The effect on growth rate was negligible; seropositive and seronegative individuals did not exhibit statistically significant differences in growth rates. In addition, an analysis of home range size reveals that adult males have the greatest home range size, which may provide a route for disease transmission to other adults. The long-term effects of URTD are still unknown; however, this data suggests a zero known mortality rate due to URTD over a four-year period.