Fibropapilloma in Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles: The Path to Extinction

Natalie Colbourne \ Oceans First, Issue 4, 2017, pgs. 16-22.  Download PDF


Fibropapilloma (FP) tumors have become more severe in Hawaiian green sea turtles since they were first found in 1928. The nitrogen footprint found in foraging grounds, in which sea turtles live and feed, is the main cause of FP in green sea turtles. Nitrogen is converted into arginine, an amino acid that causes tumor formation by algae, that sea turtles consume. Many studies have been conducted on the disease and it has been concluded that the severity of the tumors is higher in turtles with larger carapace (shell length). As well, some studies have shown that where there is nitrogen waste, there is also an increased disease rate, and that these locations are foraging grounds. It was also proven that these locations contain macroalgae with arginine, further proving that there is a direct relationship between where these algae were found and where sea turtles with FP live and feed. Green sea turtles are endangered and it is crucial that we understand FP completely in order to eliminate the disease. This review will explain how nitrogen waste causes severe Fibropapilloma tumors in Hawaiian green sea turtles.