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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 547:247-255 (2016)  -  DOI:

Novel insights into the dynamics of green turtle fibropapillomatosis

Ana R. Patrício1,2,*, Carlos E. Diez3, Robert P. van Dam4, Brendan J. Godley1

1Centre for Ecology & Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, UK
2MARE - Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, ISPA - University Institute, 1149-041, Lisbon, Portugal
3Program of Protected Species, Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR 00936 Puerto Rico
4Chelonia, San Juan, PR 00902-0708 Puerto Rico
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT:  Outbreaks of fibropapillomatosis (FP), a neoplastic infectious disease of marine turtles, have occurred worldwide since the 1980s. Its most likely aetiological agent is a virus, but disease expression depends on external factors, typically associated with altered environments. The scarcity of robust long-term data on disease prevalence has limited interpretations on the impacts of FP on turtle populations. Here we model the dynamics of FP at 2 green turtle foraging aggregations in Puerto Rico, through 18 yr of capture-mark-recapture data (1997-2014). We observed spatiotemporal variation in FP prevalence, potentially modulated via individual site-fidelity. FP expression was residency dependent, and FP-free individuals developed tumours after 1.8 ± 0.8 yr (mean ± SD) in the infected area. Recovery from the disease was likely, with complete tumour regression occurring in 2.7 ± 0.7 yr (mean ± SD). FP does not currently seem to be a major threat to marine turtle populations; however, disease prevalence is yet unknown in many areas. Systematic monitoring is highly advisable as human-induced stressors can lead to deviations in host-pathogen relationships and disease virulence. Finally, data collection should be standardized for a global assessment of FP dynamics and impacts.

KEY WORDS: Fibropapillomas · Chelonia mydas · Mark-recapture · Disease dynamics · Emerging disease · Puerto Rico · Green turtle · Population dynamics

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Cite this article as: Patrício AR, Diez CE, van Dam RP, Godley BJ (2016) Novel insights into the dynamics of green turtle fibropapillomatosis. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 547:247-255.

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