Researchers from Florida Atlantic University have found that sunlight can have very beneficial and healing effects for green sea turtles, especially those suffering from the disease fibropapillomatosis.
Sadly, the illness affects up to 60% of some turtle subpopulations and produces horrific tumors on the shell skin and eyes of the turtles. Treatment involves surgically removing the tumors, although they often regrow, and a lot of turtles do not survive the surgery.
The research was published in the journal Animals and showed that animals with greater exposure to sunlight demonstrated a better prognosis. The researchers found that those turtles with greater exposure had higher levels of Plasma Vitamin D and demonstrated more successful outcomes to surgery. In addition, the animals also had a lower incidence of tumor regrowth.
Commenting on the results, Sarah Milton, a professor at FAU and the study’s senior author, stated:
“Data from our study suggest that one potential method to better the outcome of sea turtles with this disease is to increase their exposure to UV light during rehabilitation. Although a cure for this disease has yet to be discovered, we have shown that exposure to higher UV light increases vitamin D in turtles, as it does in other animals including humans. Increased plasma vitamin D levels are then in turn correlated with lower rates of disease. This potential to boost health could therefore contribute to improved recovery. For future studies, we would be interested to see if there are direct links between vitamin D levels and immune function.”
You can find the original study here.