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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 149:133-143 (2022)  -  DOI:

Fibropapillomatosis dynamics in green sea turtles Chelonia mydas over 15 years of monitoring in Akumal Bay, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Fernando A. Muñoz Tenería1,*, Vanessa Labrada-Martagón2, Roberto Luis Herrera-Pavón3, Thierry M. Work4, Erik González-Ballesteros5, Ana Cecilia Negrete-Philippe6, Gisela Maldonado-Saldaña7

1Laboratorio de Inmunología, Facultad de Agronomía y Veterinaria, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, S.L.P., CP 78399, Mexico
2Laboratorio Ecología de la Salud, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, S.L.P., CP 78295, Mexico
3Laboratorio de Sistemática, Ecología y Manejo de Recursos Acuáticos, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Chetumal, Chetumal, Quintana Roo, CP 77014, Mexico
4US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station, Honolulu, Hawaii 96850, USA
5Campo 1, Facultad de Estudios Superiores Cuatitlán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, CP 54714, Mexico
6Jefatura de Fauna Silvestre, Dirección de Conservación, Parque Xcaret, Quintana Roo, CP 77710, Mexico
7Kanantik Servicios y Soluciones Ambientales, Cancún, Quintana Roo, CP 77536, Mexico
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fibropapillomatosis (FP) is a tumor disease that affects all sea turtle species but is mainly seen in green turtles Chelonia mydas. The pathology of FP has been described extensively, but its dynamics in populations over time have been less studied. We analyzed the dynamics of FP in a population of green turtles in Akumal Bay on the central coast of the Mexican Caribbean. A total of 475 green turtles were captured over 15 yr (2004-2018). The highest prevalence of FP was found in the largest turtles, and there was a positive relationship between FP prevalence and size of turtles. FP was first detected in 2008 at a prevalence of 1.6%, and annual prevalence increased markedly from 17.9% in 2015 to 54% by 2018. Likewise, severity of FP increased over time, with most turtles falling into moderately to severely diseased categories (tumor score 2). The average size of turtles with FP was significantly larger than the size of individuals without FP. Regression of tumors was seen in 21% of turtles, tumor score was higher in smaller individuals, and only tumor score 2 was present in the largest sea turtles. An increase in the prevalence and tumor score of FP coincided with the massive arrival of Sargassum in 2015, suggesting that altered environmental conditions may have played a role. The increased prevalence of FP in Akumal Bay prompts the need to explain what might be driving this phenomenon and how widespread it is in the Caribbean.

KEY WORDS: Green turtle · Fibropapillomatosis · Tumor score · Sargassum

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Cite this article as: Muñoz Tenería FA, Labrada-Martagón V, Herrera-Pavón RL, Work TM, González-Ballesteros E, Negrete-Philippe AC, Maldonado-Saldaña G (2022) Fibropapillomatosis dynamics in green sea turtles Chelonia mydas over 15 years of monitoring in Akumal Bay, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Dis Aquat Org 149:133-143.

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