Hunting for Eggs with X-rays

Digital Radiography Safeguards Rare Turtles at the Shedd Aquarium


Challenge

Chicago’s world-renowned Shedd Aquarium is dedicated to animal care and conservation. Maintaining the health of its inhabitants sometimes requires specialized approaches and tools. Recently, a rare turtle species - the South American mata mata (Chelus fimbriata) – needed extra monitoring and care from the Shedd Aquarium veterinary team.


The mata mata are so well camouflaged that guests of the Shedd Aquarium often walk right past them in the Amazon Rising exhibit. Their bodies resemble leaves and bark, ideal for blending into the shallow waters of their natural habitat in the Amazon basin. With snouts that function like snorkels, they can stand in the water just below the surface, allowing them to both breathe and stay out of sight.


A frequent issue encountered with the mata mata is the inability to deposit eggs. In the aquarium setting, the veterinary team also has difficulty assessing if female turtles have deposited their eggs. If eggs remain in the female turtle’s body, serious medical complications can arise. To prevent these complications, the Shedd Aquarium team needs to determine egg status without putting undue stress on the turtles.

Solution

The veterinary team decided to employ digital radiography – utilizing their MinXray Enduras Wireless Portable Digital Radiography System - to help them with the care of a female mata mata that was having trouble with eggs. The compact nature and portability of the MinXray system allowed for imaging on-site, key to reducing stress on the turtle. Radiographs are the most efficient way to monitor egg development and passage in the mata mata. Even when eggs are deposited at the exhibit, they might not be observed and can become lost. A series of radiographs over several days helps the care team determine when eggs have passed.


Digital radiographs obtained with the MinXray Enduras Wireless system identified the female was carrying 11 eggs but could not deposit them. The Shedd’s veterinary team induced egg-laying using a hormone treatment. Within 24 hours, additional radiographic images showed the turtle deposited 10 of the 11 eggs.



Results

Using the MinXray Enduras Wireless system, the Shedd Aquarium care team was able to solve a critical problem. Without the accuracy of the radiography system, the Shedd team would have been unable to tell if the eggs were deposited or if the turtle was in need of additional assistance. The female mata mata is thriving and hiding in its habitat at the Shedd Aquarium.

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