Fibropapillomatosis: Global Disease Plaguing Endangered Sea Turtles
Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a “complex and disfiguring disease that effects mainly green turtles; but has been found in other species (e.g. loggerheads, Kemp’s ridleys, and Olive ridley). This disease causes “benign, cauliflower-like tumors found on the soft tissue of sea turtle”. They can inhibit a turtle’s eating and swimming as well as vision. The tumors can also in severe cases grow internally, causing a variety of health problems for the turtles; while some of the internal tumors have been found to have low-grade malignancy. According to EcoHealth alliance, incidence of FP have been increasing over the past 20 years.
The exact origin of the disease is unknown, but has been associated with two herpes viruses (i.e. papillomavirus and retrovirus). FP has been shown to have a strong correlation to pollution in warmer parts of the ocean (e.g. algae blooms, fertilizer runoff, pet waste).
According to Kawachi, 2012, anthropogenic land-based sources of pollution such as elevated nutrient inputs appear to negatively impact marine hervibores by stimulating a nutrient storage metabolism of bloom species of marine plants.
Eco Health Alliance has stated that there is a slight chance that if turtles can last long enough with these tumors, they may begin to shrink. Ongoing research is in progress to determine why this regression takes place. “The epidemiology of FP can also serve as an effective tool to monitor ecosystem health in local warm-water, near-shore marine habitats” (EcoHealth Alliance, 2006).
If you are interested in learning more about this subject, Kawachi did an in depth study on the topic and is listed in the references below.
Eco health Alliance. 2006. http://www.ecohealthalliance.org/news/55fibropapillomatosis_global_disease_plaguing_endangered_sea_turtles
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. http://www.gumbolimbo.org/Fibropapillomatosis
Kawachi, M., 2012. TESTING LINKS AMONG EUTROPHICATION, BLOOM ALGAE, AND GREEN TURTLE FIBROPAPILLOMATOSIS. Online. Available through Proquest. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1267130377
Image credit: Gumbo limbo http://www.gumbolimbo.org/Fibropapillomatosis