Pathology: A Sample of Tumors at Honokowai, 1996

We offer these images to anyone who can make use of them. We hope that someone can shed more light on what exactly these photos reveal about the tumors of these turtles.

Some Examples of GTFP Photographed at Honokowai, July-August 1996

These images were originally taken underwater at Honokowai, Maui, during the summer of 1996.

The icons below are linked to 640x480 JPEGs. If you prefer to review the images as 240x180 GIFs, use our contact sheet (9 GIFs, 216K).

Caveat: Colours Can Be Misleading

The nature of this medium makes it impossible for us to know exactly how our images will appear on other monitors. Colours can be shifted or missing entirely. The brightness, contrast, colour balance, and gamma of our monitors can vary significantly from yours. This means that you must not rely on the colours contained in these images, even if you are using a video system that has millions of colours.

Hoahele [1995 Turtle 28] (58K JPEG)

Hoahele shows a new small tumor in the posterior of her left eye. The posterior of the eye is almost always the first place where tumors erupt. We did not see tumors on this turtle in August, 1995, although some early signs were evident.

Heana [1996 Turtle 29] (66K JPEG)

Heana shows how a small tumor in the posterior of the eye progresses into two discrete tumors, growing from both corners. From the first small eruption to growth of this size occurs in as little as 10 months.

Unnamed [1991 Turtle 10] (78K JPEG)

1991 Turtle 10 is blinded. In 1992, her left eye was completely obscured by a golf ball sized tumor. Over the years her left eyeball was eaten away. In 1996, there is only a slit where her eye once was.

Unidentified [1996 Turtle 25] (36K JPEG)

We logged this turtle as 1996 Turtle 25 but it is essentially unidentified. It could be an old friend, but we can't tell. We use a turtle's left profile for identification, and hers is completely obscured by a massive tumor and a thick coat of algae. The tumor pulsed gruesomely when this turtle blinked her eye.

Heana Resting [1996 Turtle 29] (48K JPEG)

Heana, resting in a rather typical position: flippers tucked under plastron. She has multiple tumors over all soft body parts but has not yet experienced the emaciation that often accompanies the final stage of this disease.

Heana In Cleaning Posture [1996 Turtle 29] (69K JPEG)

Heana rests on a coral outcropping and takes up a cleaning posture. Two millet seed butterflies (Chaetodon miliaris) attend to her tumors. One fish bites at the turtle's eyes. This looks painful because the turtle invariably flinches, and sometimes even swims away.

Hoahele Nips Heana [1995 Turtle 28, 1996 Turtle 29] (64K JPEG)

Life goes on in spite of the disease. Here Heana adopts a cleaning posture hoping to attract some attention. She gets it.

This is Hoahele's favourite ledge. She was under it at the time, and took exception to Heana's presence. Hoahele clamped down on the flipper of the significantly larger turtle. This leads us to wonder if biting and aggression assist in the transmission of this disease.

Heana and Snappers [1996 Turtle 29] (91K JPEG)

Here yellow snappers school over a resting Heana. Her head is lowered, showing the ring of tumors that is starting to grow around her neck. If the disease progresses, she will probably have a full collar of tumors by 1997.

Turtles Mating (50K JPEG)

In 1996, twice we saw a turtle mounting another. Each time the male was 1995 Turtle #46. He has tumors in both eyes and a growth as big as a grapefruit on the nape of his neck. We saw him attempting to mate with a female, and in a case of mistaken gender we guess, we saw him mount another male. Again, we can't help but wonder if this is another possible route of transmission for this disease.

If there are specific images you would like to see in the Turtle Trax pathology pages, let us know. Please send comments or suggestions to


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