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The exposure of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) to tumour promoting compounds produced by the cyanobacteriumLyngbya majusculaand their potential role in the aetiology of fibropapillomatosis

Harmful Algae
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.hal.2007.06.001
  • Green Turtle
  • Lyngbya Majuscula
  • Fibropapillomatosis
  • Lyngbyatoxin A
  • Debromoaplysiatoxin
  • Medicine


Abstract Lyngbya majuscula, a benthic filamentous cyanobacterium found throughout tropical and subtropical oceans, has been shown to contain the tumour promoting compounds lyngbyatoxin A (LA) and debromoaplysiatoxin (DAT). It grows epiphytically on seagrass and macroalgae, which also form the basis of the diet of the herbivorous green turtle ( Chelonia mydas). This toxic cyanobacterium has been observed growing in regions where turtles suffer from fibropapillomatosis (FP), a potentially fatal neoplastic disease. The purpose of this study was to determine whether green turtles consume L. majuscula in Queensland, Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, USA, resulting in potential exposure to tumour promoting compounds produced by this cyanobacterium. L. majuscula was present, though not in bloom, at nine sites examined and LA and DAT were detected in variable concentrations both within and between sites. Although common in green turtle diets, L. majuscula was found to contribute less than 2% of total dietary intake, indicating that turtles may be exposed to low concentrations of tumour promoting compounds during non-bloom conditions. Tissue collected from dead green turtles in Moreton Bay tested positive for LA. An estimated dose, based on dietary intake and average toxin concentration at each site, showed a positive correlation for LA with the proportion of the population observed with external FP lesions. No such relationship was observed for DAT. This does not necessarily demonstrate a cause and effect relationship, but does suggest that naturally produced compounds should be considered in the aetiology of marine turtle FP.

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