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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 62:163-176 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/dao062163

Retrospective pathology survey of green turtles Chelonia mydas with fibropapillomatosis in the Hawaiian Islands, 1993–2003

Thierry M. Work1,*, George H. Balazs2, Robert A. Rameyer1, Robert A. Morris3

1US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Hawaii Field Station, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231,Honolulu, Hawaii 96850, USA
2National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, 2570 Dole St., Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
3Makai Animal Clinic, 420 Uluniu St., Kailua, Hawaii 96734, USA

ABSTRACT: We necropsied 255 stranded green turtles Chelonia mydas with fibropapillomatosis (FP) from the Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific, from August 1993 through May 2003. Of these, 214 (84%) were euthanized due to advanced FP and the remainder were found dead in fresh condition. Turtles were assigned a standardized tumor severity score ranging from 1 (lightly tumored) to 3 (heavily tumored). Tumors were counted and measured and categorized as external, oral, or internal and tissues evaluated by light microscopy. Turtles in tumor score 2 and 3 categories predominated, and tumor score 3 turtles were significantly larger than the other 2 categories. More juveniles stranded than subadults or adults. Total cross-sectional area of tumors increased significantly with straight carapace length (SCL). Frequency distribution of total number of external tumors per turtle was significantly skewed to the right, and there were significantly more tumors at the front than rear of turtles. Eighty percent of turtles had oral tumors, and 51% of turtles with oral tumors had tumors in the glottis. Thirty-nine percent of turtles had internal tumors, most of them in the lung, kidney and heart. Fibromas predominated in lung, kidney and musculoskeletal system whereas myxofibromas were more common in intestines and spleen. Fibrosarcomas of low-grade malignancy were most frequent in the heart, and heart tumors had a predilection for the right atrium. Turtles with FP had significant additional complications including inflammation with vascular flukes, bacterial infections, poor body condition, and necrosis of salt gland. Turtles with oral tumors were more likely to have secondary complications such as pneumonia. Most turtles came from the island of Oahu (74%) followed by Maui (20%), Hawaii, Molokai, and Lanai (<3% each). On Oahu, significantly more turtles we necropsied stranded along the northwestern and northeastern shores.

KEY WORDS: Green turtle · Chelonia mydas · Fibropapillomatosis · Pathology · Epizootiology

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