FAU study links Indian River Lagoon to weakened turtle immune system
IndianRiverLagoon (treasurecoast.com) – Pollution in the Indian River Lagoon likely weakens juvenile green sea turtles’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to a disease that can leave them with tumors, a new study has found.
Florida Atlantic University researchers found a connection between polluted water and diseases such as green turtle fibropapillomatosis (GTFP), according to their study published Oct. 11 in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases.
Using data spanning over two decades, the team compared blood samples from teenage turtles in the lagoon to tumor-free turtles in the far cleaner Trident Turning Basin near Cape Canaveral.
Lagoon turtles’ white blood cells, which fend off disease and infection, responded worse to challenges than those of turtles in the Trident Basin, according to the study.
In many cases, the disease can grow tumors so large they affect turtles’ vision and ability to eat, swim and escape predators, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.