Fi.bro.pa.pi.lo.ma…What?

In this post, you will understand a little about a pathological disease that occurs in sea turtles. Ready for another adventure, sailors?!

It’s my people! It’s hard to pronounce that word, isn’t it?! Fibropapillomatosis and you might be wondering what it is. In this post, we will find out what fibropapillomatosis really is, but first let’s start at the beginning.

Turtle crawling in the sand. Source

It all starts with chelonians or testudines, which are reptiles of the order Chelonia and are classified as:

Turtles explanation. Authorial source: Samira Pedro Orlando
Explanation of the tortoises. Image copyright: Samira Pedro Orlando
Explanation of tortoises. Image copyright: Samira Pedro Orlando

With the exception of freshwater turtles , which are actually morphologically a tortoise, but their popular name is known as tortoise.

Confused right? Scenes for the next chapters .

Now that we know a little more about the difference between chelonians, let’s focus a little on sea turtles. 

There are five species of sea turtles identified in the world, they are:

  • Loggerhead Turtle : Caretta Carretta
  • Leatherback Turtle : Dermochelys coriacea
  • Olive turtle :  Lepidochelys olivacea
  • Hawksbill Turtle : Eretmochelys imbricata
  • Green Turtle : Chelonia mydas

Shall we focus on Chelonia mydas ? Better known as the green turtle !

What is fibropapillomatosis?

Fibropapillomatosis is a disease that manifests itself in sea turtles , however the most affected are green turtles ( C. mydas ).

They have benign, warty skin tumors of varying sizes. Its aspects are macroscopic and can be seen with the naked eye.

Turtle with fibropapillomatosis. Source

Tumors appear in any region of the body surface, but they occur more frequently in the fins, neck and armpit regions, and may trigger the appearance of visceral fibromas .

Some researchers associate this disease with a virus, known as herpesvirus or chelonid herpesvirus 5 (ChHV5).

However, it is a disease that requires a lot of research to discover its true origin.

What happens to Chelonia mydas that have fibropapillomatosis?

Turtle with fibropapilloma found by the Aruanã Project. Source

According to Matushima (2001) and Balazs (1999) Chelonia mydas that are in an advanced stage with fibropapillomatosis , present:

  • weakness;
  • blindness;
  • regenerative anemia;
  • progressive decrease in the count of lymphocytes, eosinophils, basophils;
  • progressive increase in monocytes and heterophils;
  • fluctuation disturbances;
  • cachexia (loss of fat tissue and bone muscle);
  • electrolyte imbalance;
  • elevation of liver enzymes;
  • uremia;
  • hypoproteinemia.

But you must be asking, “Where does it take place? Is there treatment?”

The occurrence is more frequent in places with a high level of pollution , as cases recorded in conservation areas are rare.

To analyze them, it is necessary to do physical exams to have correct information about the diagnosis. These tests are usually histopathological or a biopsy of one/two lesions.

However, there is still no specific and effective treatment for fibropapilloma .

Turtle in surgery with the team from Projeto Tartaruga Viva. Source

The most advisable is surgery to remove the tumors that lead to the survival of most green turtles.

Turtle in surgery with the team from Projeto Tartaruga Viva. Source

However, the turtles that undergo these surgeries are those found on beaches with this type of pathology.

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