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Determining Endangered Sea Turtles’ Immune Response to Emerging Diseases

Already highly endangered, loggerhead and green sea turtles now face two recently identified diseases. Lethargic loggerhead syndrome plagues loggerheads, leaving them listless, anemic and dying. Juvenile green sea turtles are debilitated by tumors from green turtle fibropapilloma disease. The causes of these diseases are unknown, and basic knowledge of sea turtles’ immune function and their response to environmental stressors such as temperature, inadequate food supply and pollution is needed to understand and treat these and other diseases. This study will determine how the immune response of loggerhead and green sea turtles varies with age and nutritional status during different seasons and temperatures. researchers will also compare immune function in turtles from areas where fibropapilloma is prevalent with turtles living in more pristine environments. The information could help save these species from new threats.

 Dr. Sarah L. Milton, Florida Atlantic University