Rise and fall over 26 years of a marine epizootic in Hawaiian green sea turtles

Journal of Wildlife Diseases
By: , and 

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Abstract

Estimates of chronic disease prevalence are needed to improve our understanding of marine disease epizootiology, which is poorly known for marine megafauna such as marine turtles. An emerging worldwide threat to green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) is fibropapillomatosis (FP), which is a pandemic tumor-forming disease associated with herpesviruses. We report on a 26-yr FP epidemic in the Hawaiian Archipelago and show that apparent disease prevalence in the world's main endemic hot spot increased rapidly following a late 1980s outbreak, peaked during the mid-1990s, and then declined steadily ever since. While this disease is a major cause of sea turtle stranding in Hawaiian waters and can be fatal, we also show that long-term tumor regression can occur even for turtles with advanced FP. The endemic Hawaiian green turtle stock was severely depleted by overexploitation prior to protection under the US Endangered Species Act in 1978. This stock has increased significantly ever since, despite exposure to a major chronic disease epidemic that is currently declining.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Rise and fall over 26 years of a marine epizootic in Hawaiian green sea turtles
Series title Journal of Wildlife Diseases
DOI 10.7589/0090-3558-45.4.1138
Volume 45
Issue 4
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher Wildlife Disease Association
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 5 p.
First page 1138
Last page 1142