Green turtles’ tumors cause alarm in Mexico’s Caribbean coast

Little is known about what causes these debilitating cysts

Green turtles in the Mexican Caribbean are arriving with large tumors. Photo: WhatsApp
Green turtles in the Mexican Caribbean are arriving with large tumors. Photo: WhatsApp

Green turtles with massive cauliflower-like tumors have been spotted on the coasts of Akumal and Holbox.

Gisela Maldonado, from the state Committee of Sea Turtles, told Radio Fórmula that the turtles are also suffering from a loss of nutrients. Turtles with the condition are often unable to feed themselves, swim or see.

The prolific green turtles, which have been nesting along the coast, lay more eggs than any other species in Mexico, she said. As a tourist activity, scuba divers often enjoy “swimming with turtles” in Mexico, but are asked not to touch or harass them in any way.

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Fibropapillomas, or FP, can also occur in the liver, intestine or esophagus. A number of factors such as stress, warmer waters or pollution affect the turtle’s immune system, which causes these cysts to appear.

The tumors are caused by a type of herpes virus, are similar to skin cancer and are most common in turtles living close to developed areas. Juveniles most often show symptoms.

The disease first surfaced in 1934 in the Florida Keys. The sickness went quiet, then reappeared in the 1970s and ‘80s. FP is prevalent off the coasts of Florida, Hawaii and Texas.

While the tumors sometimes go away on their own, there is no treatment or surgery to address FP.

Sources: Oceana.org, Quinta Fuerza

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