The fluorescent turtle belongs to a critically endangered species of turtle known as hawksbill sea turtles.
Discovered by biologist and National Geographic explorer David Gruber from City University of New York, the incredibly rare turtle was caught on camera glowing neon red and green under a blue light.
The blue ocean was an excellent source of light that prompted the turtle to emit different colors through the pitch black of the waters through the night, according to Gruber. It should be noted that it’s different from bioluminescence, which is an animal’s property to produce light on its own due to a host bacteria and certain chemical reactions. This turtle, he told National Geographic, may be the first reptile ever observed exhibiting biofluorescence, a sometimes-fishy phenomenon in which light is absorbed, transformed, and re-emitted as a different color. “We are finding biofluorescent marine life to be much more widespread that we ever imagined”. But Gruber pointed that algae could have caused the glowing red on the shell of the hawksbill, while the turtle itself may have produced the green colour. It displayed a mix of both green and red, quite uncommon for most biofluorescent animals, who usually display just one.
In late July, Gruber and his team were recording glowing coral reefs and small sharks when “there came out of nowhere this fluorescent turtle”. He added that the fluorescent hawksbill is an “amazing” discovery.
It looked like a big spaceship gliding into view, he recalls: An alien craft with a patchwork of neon green and red all over its head and body. But when he spoke with locals, the marine biologist discovered a nearby community that kept several captive young hawksbills. They include whether these turtles can see the biofluorescence, where they get the ability-do they take in compounds from their food that let them fluoresce, or do they make their own compounds-how they’re using it, and whether other sea turtle species possess a similar ability. The population of the hawksbill overall across the globe has declined by almost 90 percent in the recent decades. It’s the flawless light environment that would fuel the biofluorescent quality in hawksbill sea turtles. He added that even the hawksbill sea turtle are considered for conservation, the marine reptile remains as a mystery.