Mysterious Tumors Are Crippling Great Barrier Reef Sea Turtles

A mysterious turtle-specific outbreak is ravaging a growing number of sea turtles living on the Great Barrier Reef – and humans might be responsible.

The human assault on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is affecting the health of sea turtles living on it.

Reports have emerged about a growing number of turtles suffering from a disease called fibropapillomatosis that, scientists suspect, might be linked to the herpes virus.

"The disease causes large tumors to grow on internal and external organs of the turtles, which can sometimes grow up to [about a foot] in size and block the turtles’ vision,” Karina Jones of James Cook University told The Washington Post.

As a result, affected creatures face difficulty in finding food, which causes them to starve, sometimes fatally.

The exact causes of the ailment are still under investigation. However, Jones and fellow researchers think the deteriorating health of the reef’s turtles might have something to do with the health of the reef itself.

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In June, it was reported that the world’s most extensive coral reef system witnessed its worst mass bleaching event on record. Almost 93 percent of reefs have been hit by coral bleaching due to “an unusually strong El Nino and the background global warming caused by manmade greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the United Nations Environment Program.

"We're a little bit worried because we're starting to see a little more of this disease but we're also wondering what it's saying about the reef,” Jones stated in an interview with ABC Australia. “There's so much we don't know, but we do know the virus is seen a lot more in areas that used more by humans."

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