Well, this is sad and disgusting. Environmental degradation has wrecked havoc on sea life these past few decades. Disposal of pharmaceuticals has caused some fish to change gender. Dolphins are getting caught in our trash. And oil spills can be traumatic for any aquatic environment. Now, turtles are getting infected with the herpes virus and getting herpes tumors all over their bodies and shells. Find out why these turtles with herpes tumors washed ashore in Australia.
Outbreak. There is a herpes outbreak epidemic in the Great Barrier reef. But it’s not affecting sexually active humans, it’s hitting the turtle population.
Strain. There’s a specific strain of herpes that is causing this. According to the New Scientist, it’s a turtle-specific strain called fibropapillomatosis. It causes tumors to grow on the eyes, flippers, tail, shell, or internal organs.
Tumors. Katrina Jones of James Cook University in Australia told the New Scientist, “The tumours are benign but can grow up to 30 centimetres in size and block the turtles’ vision. This means they can’t find food or see predators or boats.” Poor things!
Vulnerable. But it’s not just other animals or boats the turtles have to watch out for. The tumors make the turtles more vulnerable to other infections, too. When turtles become severely affected with the herpes virus, they often have other pathogens affecting them as well and are likely to die.
Where? The surveys by Jones’ team show turtles are most affected in one specific region. The herpes virus is most prevalent in one stretch of the Cockle Bay at Magnetic Island, a popular tourist spot. About half of the turtle population is infected with herpes in this area.
Where? But it’s not just that strip of water that is affected. About ten percent of the turtle population in Cockle Bay has herpes. But how are they getting it?
Unsure. Scientists are still unsure of the cause of this specific herpes outbreak. But they do know that they see these tumors in areas where there are a lot of humans. So it could be coming from people.
Dormant? Humans can be infected with the herpes virus and not show any symptoms. The same goes for these shelled creatures, some of whom are just carriers of the virus. Those turtles don’t have herpes tumors for some reason.
External factors? Jones told the New Scientist, “We think there must be some external trigger that causes the tumour development.” The researchers are looking into pollution as a possible cause. When looking in other areas where turtles are experiencing herpes outbreaks, this is another common factor.
Other areas. Fibropapillomatosis has been spreading in a couple other areas as well. It has become increasingly common in Hawaii and Florida, especially near onshore farming areas. They think this might be the source of pollution.
Pollution. While many turtles may be infected with the virus and not show symptoms, it is possible pollution can engender the tumor outbreaks. Doug Mader, who works at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida believes environmental pollution is to blame. He said, “It is thought that pollution may weaken their immune systems, thus rendering them more susceptible to disease.”
Looking for answers. Jones’ team is still trying to isolate the cause of contamination. They are looking for clues in water quality data from the past. The team is hoping this will provide them some clues to what the source of the outbreak is.
Testing the waters. The researchers are testing water samples for a variety of chemicals. They are looking at heavy metals, fertilizer, and pesticide components. These could be coming from the farms.
Big questions. This turtle outbreak raises a lot of concerns. Jones told the New Scientist, “The field is very challenging because there are so many questions to ask. But it’s always good to ask the big questions.”
The big picture. This turtle herpes tumor outbreak may only affect a specific population. But it is part of a larger environmental catastrophe. It demonstrates that humans need to take better care of our environment and work toward implementing sustainable farming solutions.
Source : RebelCircus