Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean by Osha Gray Davidson

Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean. A very important book that will, I'm sure, affect every reader. It is almost like a crime novel. But it is a true story. A story about the search of a "perpetrator" that is responsible for all the tumors found in sea turtles. And what does this all have to do with humans? In times like this (keyword: coronavirus pandemic), such books are especially worth to read and spread...

Fire in the Turtle House

Title: Fire in the Turtle House - The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean
Author: Osha Gray Davidson
Imprint: PublicAffairs
Length: 272 pages
Published: 2003
Language: English


Sea turtles have existed since the time of the dinosaurs. But now, suddenly, the turtles are dying, ravaged by a mysterious plague that some biologists consider the most serious epidemic now raging in the natural world. Perhaps most important, sea turtles aren’t the only marine creatures falling prey to deadly epidemics. Over the last few decades diseases have been burning through nearshore waters around the world with unprecedented lethality.

What is happening to the sea turtle, and how can it be stopped? In this fascinating scientific detective story, Osha Gray Davidson tracks the fervent efforts of the extraordinary and often quirky scientists, marine biologists, veterinarians, and others racing against the clock to unravel a complicated biological and environmental puzzle and keep the turtles from extinction. He follows the fates of particular turtles, revealing their surprisingly distinct personalities and why they inspire an almost spiritual devotion in the humans who come to know them. He also explores through vivid historical anecdotes and examples the history of man’s relationship to the sea, opening a window onto the role played by humans in the increasing number of marine die-offs and extinctions.

Beautifully written, intellectually provocative, Fire in the Turtle House reveals how emerging diseases wreaking havoc in the global ocean pose an enormous, direct threat to humanity. This is science journalism at its best.

Thoughts about the book

When I was searching for a book about the biology of sea turtles, I found the book "Fire in the Turtle House: The Green Sea Turtle and the Fate of the Ocean" by Osha Gray Davidson. A book that is dedicated to sea turtles and their risk of extinction.

The author writes about people that are tirelessly searching for the cause of an epidemic: the Fibropapillomatosis (abbreviated: FP). The Fibropapillomatosis is a disease that can result in tumors in sea turtles. This disease might even kill a sea turtle. Some biologist apparently say, that the FP is one of the worst epidemic in the wild, as this epidemic is not restricted to one place, but affects sea turtles in all oceans (and thus, it is rather a pandemic).

Osha Gray Davidson writes about the unfortunate destiny of sea turtles and about how committed people do everyhing conceivable to decipher this mysterious mass die-off. The book is scientifically sound, but it also intends to fascinate people about sea turtles.

A central role in the book is George Balazs. He was one of the first persons concerned about the sea turtles. He has tirelessly worked for the rescue and protection of sea turtles. And he was one of those that set out on the search to find the cause of this mysterious mass die-off.

Not a very easy task. Often he lacked money to continue with his quest. At the beginning of his work, thus, he was mainly focused on monitoring sea turtles. He was searching for an answer to the following question:

How many sea turtles are left in our oceans?

In the beginning of his career as a zoologist, he observed how sea turtles were taken out of the sea in Hawaii to process them into steaks in restaurant.

Apropos steaks in restaurants. How are humans connected to the Fibropapillomatosis? This is one questions scientists want to find out about the cause of this disease. Are we responsible of the tumors, and consequently, of this mass die-off? Or is it just a virus? To be more precisely, a herpesvirus? But why are sea turtles so susceptible and develop tumors?

In most recent research it is said that a herpesvirus is responsible for the FP.

The book was published in 2003. At that time the the cause of FP was not unambiguously clear. As far as I know (please correct me if I'm wrong), the cause of the FP - the herpesvirus - is known. But not the etiology of the virus and the role of humans in the growth of tumors. Try to check one of the most recent studies to find out more about this disease.


The book is very touching. As it is such an important book, please read it and spread the word for sea turtles!

Do you know this book? What can you say about this book? Is there another book about sea turtles you can recommend to read? Please let me know in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ich habe die Datenschutzerklärung zur Kenntnis genommen. Ich stimme zu, dass meine Angaben zur Kontaktaufnahme und für Rückfragen dauerhaft gespeichert werden. // I have read the Privacy Policy and accept its terms and conditions. I agree that my contact details will be stored permanently for queries.