Even though sea turtles are associated with several symbiotic parasites and can suffer from various diseases, nothing has been as worrisome as fibropapillomatosis. This disease is a growing threat to the survival of sea turtles, especially the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Fibropapillomatosis was first detected in green turtles in Florida in the 1930’s. It is a serious infectious disease that can lead to premature death. It is characterised by the development of numerous cutaneous tumours in the soft tissues, being more prevalent in the front flippers, eyes and neck.
Although there is convincing evidence for a viral origin, other factors such as parasites, genetic susceptibility, chemical carcinogens, environmental contaminants, biotoxins, immunosuppression and ultraviolet light might also play a role in the development of the disease.
The growth of the tumours, which are usually benign, can affect locomotion, feeding, breathing, vision and the general health of the sea turtles.