Fibropapillomatosis in Marine Turtles: A Comprehensive Review

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Curtis Burney

Second Advisor

James Thomas


Fibropapillomatosis is a disease that affects six of the seven species of marine turtles. The disease was first noticed in 1928, and wasn’t observed again until the 1970s. By the 1980s there was a rapid spread of fibropapillomatosis through the sea turtle population, becoming an endemic in both Florida and Hawaii. By 1995 the concentration of disease in the population reached its climax and has showed a decline in prevalence since. After identifying a viral cause studies began to focus on cultivating the virus in the lab and sequencing, while the virus has been sequenced it has not been successfully cultured in a laboratory. Immunological studies emerged to assess the changes made in the host body as a result of exposure to the virus. Outside the host the environment was evaluated. Habitats accreting more runoff experienced an influx of invasive opportunistic algae changing the dynamic of the ecosystem and providing conditions ideal for prolonged viral existence outside of a host. Regression is a rare occurrence. Focus has always been on tumor removal and health of the animal making progression of the study of fibropapillomatosis a slow one.

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