Greens and fibropapillomatosis
Editor’s note: This is part of a series highlighting the seven species of sea turtles during #SeaTurtleWeek. A different species will be highlighted each day. For more information on other Sea Turtle Week activities offered by the Sea Turtle Preservation Society, please go to our website or visit us on Facebook and Instagram.
Green sea turtles can be found as adults nesting on Florida’s beaches and also as juveniles foraging in coastal waters. Green sea turtles are named for the color of their fat, which develops from their adult diet. These turtles are herbivores, so they eat sea grasses, algae and other marine plant life.
Fibropapillomatosis, or FP, is a debilitating disease that causes tumors to grow all over a sea turtle’s body and has been linked to water pollution and water temperature. While this disease affects all species of sea turtles, greens are more commonly affected, and this may be because of their habitat and food sources. Green populations, especially in Florida and Hawaii, but also in the Caribbean and Australia, have been heavily impacted by this disease. As far back as 1998, FP prevalence in the Indian River Lagoon was estimated to be 72 percent.
The disease causes benign tumors to grow on soft tissues, including the eyes, mouth, soft skin areas, and internal organs. These tumors can then affect a turtle’s vision, ability to feed, and its movement.