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Indian River Lagoon turtles are covered with tumors. New research points to water quality

A juvenile green sea turtle from the Indian River Lagoon in Florida suffering from Green Turtle Fibropapillomatosis. Photo courtesy Florida Atlantic University

More than half of the Indian River Lagoon’s green sea turtles are covered with tumors. 

New research suggests a link with the turtles’ immune function and the lagoon’s ailing water quality. 

The Florida Atlantic University researchers say the virus behind the tumors has been around for more than 300 million years but became pandemic only within the last century. 

The researchers compared immune function among green sea turtles in the Indian River Lagoon and the more pristine Trident Basin, near Cape Canaveral. 

They found that not every turtle with the virus developed the tumors, but that those with a weakened immune function were more likely to have tumors. 

The Indian River Lagoon has suffered from ongoing nutrient pollution associated with excessive fertilizer use, leaky septic tanks and sewage spills. 

This year a record 974 manatees have died in Florida, primarily in the Indian River Lagoon. 

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »