The exposure of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) to tumour promoting compounds produced by the cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscula and their potential role in the aetiology of fibropapillomatosis

Karen Arthur, Colin Limpus, George Balazs, Angela Capper, James Udy, Glen Shaw, Ursula Keuper-Bennett, Peter Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-125
Number of pages12
JournalHarmful Algae
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • Debromoaplysiatoxin
  • Fibropapillomatosis
  • Green turtle
  • Lyngbya majuscula
  • Lyngbyatoxin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The exposure of green turtles (<i>Chelonia mydas</i>) to tumour promoting compounds produced by the cyanobacterium <i>Lyngbya majuscula</i> and their potential role in the aetiology of fibropapillomatosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this