Estrelita [1992 Turtle 6]

Fetches a 79K JPEG

That was then (inset, 1994) and this is now (2000).

Quickstats: Seen 1992, 1994, 1995 (81K JPEG), 1996. Summer updates: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.

We first met this turtle in 1992. This is the only turtle Peter ever named and he called her Estrelita. To this day he still can't explain why. The name just popped out.

In 1992, Estrelita showed unmistakable signs of fibropapillomas. There was a small tumor emerging at the posterior of the left eye. Two tumors grew in the right eye, the posterior being the larger of the two. A small tumor clung to the corner of the mouth. Field notes also indicate salt and pepper on the left shoulder.

Estrelita is easy to identify. The left profile shows a spike pointing towards the eye and the right has several large brown plates like no other turtle in the Honokowai population. We can also identify Estrelita by the rear flippers alone.

We did not see Estrelita at all in 1993 but she was back in 1994... or actually, we should say he was back in 1994. That's correct. We now had a male called Estrelita! This was obvious from the substantial increase in the size of his tail. The other thing that had changed since 1992 was Estrelita had more tumors around both shoulders. The good news though was his 1992 eye tumors had not increased in size and the one at the corner of his mouth had disappeared.

In 1995 Estrelita was the first turtle we sighted (July 2, 1995, first dive). We were delighted to see that both his eyes had cleared and so had many of his shoulder tumors. Estrelita still carried a few odd lumps when we looked closely, but they were more like scar tissue than actual tumors.

We have added Estrelita to the very short list of turtles showing signs of regression. Of the scores of tumored Honokowai turtles, only three others appear to have improved spontaneously. Tutu is completely tumor free and has been since 1994. Two others, Nui and Goofyfoot have also undergone regression. Of the four turtles, Tutu is female, both Nui and Estrelita are males and Goofyfoot's dramatic behavioural shift in 1995 hints that we might have another emerging male on our hands in 1996.

Should that happen, of our four regression cases, three were male that underwent regression during their "puberty".

Summer 1996 Update

We met up with Estrelita mid-August this year. We are not sure why we didn't see him before then. Was he at the French Frigate Shoals or does he simply not frequent the Honokowai Turtle House any more? Perhaps he now avoids people. Certainly when Peter first sighted him, Estrelita swiped his flipper at him. (Regular readers know this indicates that the turtle is not happy with you.) A few days later, Ursula sighted him swimming straight for her. Estrelita slowed his swimming just long enough to execute one swipe of his right flipper before continuing on.

It is as if, on separate days, he gave each of us the turtle version of the one-finger salute before swimming away. This is not in itself puzzling. We have mentioned previously that we have seen Honokowai males undergo some rather pronounced behavioural changes during puberty. The once tolerant regular at the Honokowai Turtle House now seems to be a crabby recluse.

Then again, perhaps his shell holds the answer. Something happened in the 11 months since we last saw Estrelita. The rear portion of his carapace is damaged and we asked the opinions of experts on the CTURTLE mailing list. The general consensus is that Estrelita met up with a boat propeller! It looks as though some of his shell has been removed and his skin is showing underneath. It is not unlike what we would look like if part of our big toe nail had been removed. It's not pretty, and we can only hope that the damage is mostly cosmetic.

Estrelita is one of three cases of regression in the Honokowai turtle community. In this context, his good fortune has continued for 1996 and Estrelita still appears recovered from the tumors that afflicted him from 1992-1994.

Summer 1997 Update

Estrelita is yet another male that did not make an appearance in 1997. We saw him rarely in 1996, so his absence is not a complete surprise. We aren't sure whether to expect him to turn up again. We certainly hope so; for one thing, we'd like to see how the damage to his shell has turned out. Also, he's one of our regression cases. At any rate, we don't think Estrelita is dead, he's just absent.

Summer 1998 Update

We did not see Estrelita in 1998.

Summer 1999 Update

We did not see Estrelita in 1999.

Summer 2000 Update

We did not see Estrelita in 2000.

Summer 2001 Update

We did not see Estrelita in 2001.

Summer 2002 Update

We did not see Estrelita in 2002.

Summer 2003 Update

We did not see Estrelita in 2003.

Summer 2004 Update

We did not see Estrelita in 2004.

Polzbarney [1995 Turtle 15]
Who's Who Underwater at Honokowai
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Last modified 04/09/18
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