A new FP bibliography, plus the latest Masha Kai tracking map (November 8, 2009)

November 8th, 2009  

The latest Fibropapilloma Bibliography

It’s been a while since we last posted a Fibropapilloma Bibliography. I have mixed feelings about this.

We put Turtle Trax online for two reasons. One was to celebrate the beauty and wonder of sea turtles, but especially the Hawaiian green turtle, or honu. The second was to raise awareness of their struggle with the debilitating and often deadly tumor disease, fibropapillomatosis, or FP.

When we started in 1995, FP looked like it could well be the end of the line for green turtles, and not just in Hawaii but throughout the world. No one knew the origins of the disease, or how it spread, or indeed how it could erupt into a pandemic simultaneously in discrete locations. For example, to this day nobody can explain how FP became an epidemic in Hawaii and Florida at the same time, since there is literally no contact between these two turtle populations.

Faced with the possibility of losing the green turtle, government agencies and conservation groups all over the world started looking into the problem. Quite a lot of research was conducted. Once the results began to become available, the need for an FP bibliography was obvious. In those days, there were frequent additions and updates. Then the Good News arrived: FP was not always terminal, and many turtles recovered on their own. FP research activity subsequently slowed. It’s never stopped, but once the threat of extinction was removed, so was the urgency to understand FP, hence the (much) longer intervals between bibliography postings—and my ambivalence.

Obviously I am happy that FP is not an extinction threat. In fact, at Honokowai now you would be hard pressed to identify a honu with FP. 15 years ago, it was easy. All you had to do was find a turtle—they all had FP. Not any more.

Kimo (U 362) in 1993

Kimo (U 362) at The Rock in 1993. At the time, Kimo had one of the worst cases of FP we had seen.

Click image to enlarge

Kimo in 2004

11 years later, Kimo’s tumors had disappeared with almost no trace. She is the poster honu for FP recovery.

Click image to enlarge

On the other hand, FP is still out there. Sure the Honokowai ohana has recovered and the disease has moved on—but not that far. Just a few kilometers up the coast, around Napili, FP is still common. Honu are still suffering and dying from its effects. Yes, FP will pass from this ohana too, but not before a lot of turtles have been affected. This is why it saddens me that I don’t have to post the FP bibliography as often as we once did. It reflects the fact that there simply isn’t as much research happening as there once was. The shift away from FP research is justifiable and understandable, but I still am pained whenever I see a turtle with tumors.

All of which is a long introduction to the latest FP bibliography. We present two formats: the Murakawa-Balazs bibliography in traditional format, organized by author (also offered as a PDF version for download), and our own version, organized by source. The latter arose from our own research efforts, and is meant to minimize the effort needed to fetch material from library shelves.

As always, we claim full responsibility for errors, and would appreciate it if you would tell us if you discover any.

Masha Kai, as of October 27, 2009

Tracking map for Masha Kai as of Oct 27 09

Tracking map for Masha Kai as of Oct 27 09

Masha Kai still remains close to the Nohonani, as expected. Most of the data points are clustered together close to where she was released. There are two exceptions, one to the north and one to the south. What they mean, if anything, is anyone’s guess. As we move into winter (yes, there is a winter in Hawaii) we might see some change in her behaviour. The really interesting questions are: will she make a nesting migration in the spring, and if so, where? Watch this space.

Meanwhile, if you are staying at any of the West Maui condos between Honokowai Park and Pohaku Park (S-Turns), remember that you have a chance of spotting Masha Kai. She’s easily recognized by the transmitter and antenna mounted at the top of her shell. If you see her, we’d love to know about it.

Background of tracking Masha Kai

Masha Kai is a female honu who was captured, given a satellite tag, and released at Honokowai, West Maui, on August 21, 2009. The video below is re-posted to provide you with some background information. If you want more on this story, read my last post from Maui for 2009.

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74 Responses to “A new FP bibliography, plus the latest Masha Kai tracking map (November 8, 2009)”

  1. Julius Kriwat on November 11th, 2009 9:27 pm

    Hi i think your website is good

  2. Madeleine on November 15th, 2009 11:27 am

    I just came across your website. Could you tell me anything about sponsoring sea turtle? I live in Australia and I also scuba dive recreationally. I would really like to help.

  3. Peter on November 16th, 2009 4:15 am

    Hi Madeleine,

    Turtle Trax doesn’t have such a program, it’s just a web site run by me and my wife in our spare time. People often get the impression that we’re a research organization or similar, but we’re not.

    One real organization that does offer an adopt-a-turtle program is the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. It was the first sea turtle conservation group and it’s still one of the most respected. Visit:


    Thanks for caring about the turtles. They need all the friends they can get.

  4. Charles Fasano on November 20th, 2009 3:59 pm

    Keep up the good work. Site looks great.

    Can you direct me to where I can find actual population numbers for the Hawaii islands? I’m hoping to find as far back as I can the yearly pop. change.

    Any leads will be most helpful.

    Mahalo Nui Loa:

  5. MJ on November 22nd, 2009 2:50 pm


    I love all kinds of turtles and I think you should update Turtle Trax every now and then; I love reading the comics, Howitz is just hilarious!

    Thanks =)

  6. Jerry on November 25th, 2009 5:48 am

    I think that your website is very good.

  7. Peter on November 27th, 2009 7:23 am

    Can you direct me to where I can find actual population numbers for the Hawaii islands?

    I don’t think such numbers exist, since there is no way to conduct a reliable census. Even estimates are hard to come by. The most reliable data comes from the annual monitoring of the East Island nesting are in the French Frigate Shoals. Even that data comes with several caveats.

    For example, they do not monitor for the entire nesting season, although they cover the heaviest nesting period. There is therefore an unknown (but probably not high) number of nesters each season.

    Next, females nest every second year at best, and often go three or even four years between migrations. Because their cycles are often irregular, the actual number of nesting females in the population is hard to determine.

    No one knows the ratio of nesting females to the population in general, but we do know the population has increased substantially in recent years. Since honu take 20 years or more to reach nesting age, we can expect the nesting count to continue to rise for some time.

    The best source for any information about Hawaiian green turtles is George Balazs, who is in charge of Marine Turtle Research in the Central Pacific for the National Marine Fisheries Service. If there are any numbers available, he will have them.

  8. Peter on November 27th, 2009 7:28 am

    Thanks for the comments, MJ. I agree, we should update the site more often. Even more so, we should update all those pages that were written back in the 90s for dial-up connections. The sad truth is we don’t have the time to put into that right now. I’ve started projects a few times only to have them sidelined by, well, the rest of life. It’s just me and my wife, so if we can’t get around to it it doesn’t get done.

    I would dearly love to see Howzit return; we rather abruptly stranded him the last time. Again, pressures on my wife’s time prevent her from creating more Howzit cartoons. She misses Howzit as much as we do, though.

  9. mirian on December 2nd, 2009 5:35 pm

    Hi my name is Miriam andi love turtles a lot .I have two of them as weive wjeee it is hot they have to bein cold water and that is cool of that person that lives in Australia and I would like to know if it fet rwallt

  10. mirinda on December 10th, 2009 11:53 pm

    I’m glad that there is such site. I love turtles. Here is the story of Jenifer – the chess turtle

  11. kenly on December 11th, 2009 8:07 pm

    o i have tow turtels and thay named kendow and lucy and kendow is so bad he bites and every thing but lucy is so nice and that is what i need to say bi bye.

  12. nunez01 on December 17th, 2009 11:13 am

    i think its nice that you guys are helping the sea turtles thanks every one apprecats it

  13. Anonymous on January 8th, 2010 9:03 pm

    Just love the colours of the page, they go exactly with the ideas

  14. sharon on January 12th, 2010 8:45 am

    Havent been to this site in a while. Love what you guys do. thanks so much for caring like you do.
    We have 91 turtles and tortoises fo various kinds, but love the sea turtles best.
    we have done eary morning turtle watch in the past and hope to join again soon.
    keep up the kind work!!!
    sharon and gary

  15. colinwhocares on January 18th, 2010 12:16 pm
  16. Leah on January 26th, 2010 7:53 am

    Hey, this is Leah from Germany,

    Your work for Sea Turtles is great!

    Later I would like to study marine biology and then help sea turtles too.

    I already have read soo many books (including yours) about sea turtles. And I already love them.

    I hope there is a chance for me to help sea turtles too.

    Many greetings from Germany.

    Leah (15).

  17. Anonymous on February 2nd, 2010 12:24 am

    i love your viedio

  18. matua on February 4th, 2010 8:20 am

    well hello
    im a new person an i want to learn more about the turtles and just post me a comment in the above email address and thank you

    mahalo lui noa

  19. Emily on February 5th, 2010 9:14 am

    So, I’m pretty positive I love this site. I, also, have tow turtles named Kendow and Lucy. I was so ecstatic when I was just messing around when I typed in ‘turtles.org’ and there was actually a site! I wish my turtles wouldn’t bite though… Sometimes I bleed.

  20. Saphyre on February 10th, 2010 1:37 pm

    I love this site!! And I love the vidieo!

  21. melissa zanartu on February 17th, 2010 4:28 am


    Im writing a paper for university on sea turtle communication, and can’t seem to find much info on that at all, either on the internet or libraries!

    Would you mind guiding me to the right place? or do you guys have any info on your studies that involves their communication methods and behaviour?

    Thanks so much…

  22. Peter on February 19th, 2010 5:26 am

    There is a doctoral dissertation by Diane Comuzzie, titled “Behavior and communication of sea turtles” (Texas A & M University, College Station; 1987, 114 pp.). I have not read this paper, but I would like to. The references I’ve seen to it often append the word “chemical” in parentheses, but I have no idea what this means.

    The only other published descriptions that I am aware of are included in our book. We haven’t done a scientific study of turtle communication, we simply describe our observations over 20 summers of diving with Hawaiian green turtles. We believe there is a limited communication that occurs with gestures and certain behaviours.

    For example, probably the most obvious communication we see is a behaviour we call the “flipper swipe”. The turtle raises a flipper and brushes it down the cheek in a brisk motion, sometimes accompanied by head movements. Numerous observations of this gesture over the years leave no doubt in our minds that this is a signal of irritation. We’ve seen turtles direct the flipper swipe at each other, at nuisance fish, and yes, at us on occasion. Since we first described this behaviour, others have watched for it and our conclusion has been accepted by most observers, although not all.

    I hope this helps, and if you track down a copy of Dr. Comuzzie’s dissertation that you could share, I would appreciate it deeply.

  23. Robert Holcomb on February 19th, 2010 1:44 pm

    Need to know what sea turtles utilize as an aid to navigation to nesting beaches.

  24. Patricia M Kincaid on February 20th, 2010 11:06 am

    At Kopoho at the East tip of the Big Island, we saw a green sea turtle with what appeared to be a 4″ chunk of coral in his/her mouth. Could it be coral? Never seen that before.

  25. Peter on February 20th, 2010 2:53 pm

    Hi Robert,

    You’ve asked about what is likely the most amazing thing about sea turtles. Despite lots of research, no one is sure exactly how turtles navigate back to their nesting beaches. Research has suggested that it is a combination of an ability to sense the earth’s magnetic field and, when they get relatively close to the beach, their keen sense of smell. Neither of these explains fully how they do it, however.

    What amazes me is that females nesting for the first time navigate back to the beach on which they hatched. This means that somehow, their brains (which are not much bigger than an almond in fully grown turtles) retain a memory of a location they only know from the first few hours after they emerge from the egg. Once hatchlings dig out of the nest, they swim out to open water and are at sea for literally years (no one is sure how many). When they do approach shore again, it is not usually anywhere near the beach they hatched on. So not only are they astonishing navigators, they also have incredible retention, at least for that one piece of information.

  26. Peter on February 20th, 2010 3:02 pm

    Hi Patricia,

    In 20 years of diving with Hawaiian green turtles, I have never seen one with a big chunk of coral in its mouth. I have, however, seen them bite at all sorts of things so I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

    I wonder if it really was a green turtle, though. If that were a hawksbill, it would not surprise me at all to see it with a chunk of coral in its mouth. Hawksbills dig up coral to get at the sponges that live underneath. See our video on this at:


  27. Lovisa Hagnell on February 21st, 2010 7:09 am

    My name is Lovisa, I am eight years old and I have just read a booklet on “Sam and Kim” and how Peggy kept them.
    How are Sam and Kim doing?
    Where do the most sea turtles live on earth?
    Hope to hear from you, love from Sweden and one meter of snow!
    Lovisa Hagnell

  28. David Tolbert on February 21st, 2010 8:05 am

    I am sixteen and I am doing a project on sea turtles. I am to come up with a hypothesis of how they live,travel,and eat.I have to have data within the last one to five years.Any advice???

  29. Patricia M Kincaid on February 22nd, 2010 10:42 am

    Thank you, Peter. I will try to get a better look at the turtle with the coral (?) in its mouth in Champagne Pond.

    BTW, saw a leatherback at Richardson near Hilo on Saturday Feb 20.

  30. Peter on February 23rd, 2010 5:07 am

    Patricia: I am soooo envious of your leatherback sighting! In nearly 3000 dives since 1988, we have never seen one.

  31. stud on February 24th, 2010 10:06 am

    i think that you guys ARE COOL FOR SAVING THE TURTLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Anonymous on February 25th, 2010 8:54 am

    This site is pretty cool. I think you rock.

  33. Anonymous on February 25th, 2010 9:00 am

    You should put info. about turtles, and not just about rescuing turtles.

  34. Peter on February 26th, 2010 3:41 am

    Thanks for the kind words. We’ve actually posted quite a lot of information about turtles. Did you visit any of the links on the left, such as the Table of Contents?

  35. nathaniel hill on February 26th, 2010 6:57 am

    good job keep up the good work

  36. Briana on February 28th, 2010 4:23 am

    This website helps out with lots of is turtles but all issue in the water not only helping sea turtles.


    Thank You.

  37. Derek Keeble on March 7th, 2010 12:25 pm

    Hi What great site I am a 70 year old English amateur Artist and discovered the art of Wyland, on a recent, once in a life time, trip to Hawaii and I myself now love painting sea life subjects but at my age I don’t have the chance to take photo’s or see the wonderful creatures. I display 2 or 3 paintings at a local art exhibition once a year but have sold none at present. I have just printed a screen shot from your video and would like to try painting it. may I have your permission Please, I don’t want to break any copyright laws

  38. Peter on March 8th, 2010 3:24 am

    Hi Derek,

    You are more than welcome to use the image. All we require is a credit. Thanks for asking.

  39. Derek Keeble on March 8th, 2010 4:48 pm

    Thank you very much Peter will do

  40. Jeffrey Corliss on March 11th, 2010 4:59 pm

    I discovered the memorial to “Fire in the Turtle House” by accident some years ago and a friend sent me the link to your You Tube video that documented placing “The Book of Honu” at the same location. I was there today and the cases don’t appear to have moved and I saw no evidence of water intrusion.

  41. abdou on March 18th, 2010 5:02 am

    thnke you for yor paregraf

  42. Gary Hicks on March 19th, 2010 6:40 am

    Hi, This is a very interesting site. I saw Peters comment about the coral in its mouth. Dont Green Turtles occasionally eat coral as it has a high percentage of calcium in it.
    Therefore like it helps to make our bones stronger, it also helps to make their carapace harder?

    Thats just what I thought.


  43. Zeith on March 19th, 2010 2:29 pm

    Hmm, good, that you save turtles.
    *TURTLES RULE!!!!!*

  44. syerin on March 23rd, 2010 5:15 pm

    where is dad bibliography????

  45. Kevin Roy on March 27th, 2010 10:27 pm

    Aloha from Maui! I’m a full time student at UH Maui College, and I’m doing my MOP project on FP tumors. I think both your website and your book are great! Thank you so much for helping Maui’s turtles over the years, and providing researchers with valuable data. Keep up the good work!

  46. Mark C on April 1st, 2010 3:01 pm

    Nice article!!!

    Found some pics of people releasing baby turtles over El Salvador over this link:


    Cheers, Mark.

  47. not telling on April 2nd, 2010 9:25 am

    thanks for all the info

  48. Lizard on April 6th, 2010 4:30 pm

    I really appreciate the hard work and time you put into this site. Thank you!

  49. t-phan on April 7th, 2010 6:51 pm

    to whow i’m concern,
    During scape by boat from Viet Nam to find freedom . My friend boat had problem during sacping and the boat stop in the middle of pacificic ocean without water and gasoline. Poeple in the boat almost die. Somehow they saw a group of turtle come and push their boat to island nearby. The island name Kota and belong to Philippine. Do you know, where these sea turtle come from?
    This event happen during ausgust of 1977. Please e-mail back with your information.

  50. A Houshmand on April 8th, 2010 7:41 am

    This is a great effort. Thank you for all that you have done and you are doing for Turtles.
    I have come across one sea turtle that can not dive down. She/or he stays on the surface. Could you tell me what could be the problem , and how can I help her.

    We have temporaly relocated him to big saltwater aquarium to see if there will be any improvment on her situation.

    Will appriciate your coments on this.

    She was collected 6miles off shore, while we were watching her very closely for about an hour and observing her trying to dive down without any success.

    Thank you.

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