Marine biologists have discovered a glowing turtle in the South Pacific. The animal is puzzling researchers as they have yet to determine how the neon colors serve the sea creature.
David Gruber, City University’s associate professor of biology (New York0), went for a drive in the Solomon Islands back in July with the goal of researching biofluorescence in coral reefs. But what he didn’t expect to find was a biofluorescent sea turtle.
Biofluorescence is described as an animal’s ability to capture light of certain types (usually blue light), then re-emit it as a different color. According Gruber some animals have special proteins that allow them to do this, and their neon patterns can be seen even at great ocean depths.
Professor Gruber gave a statement to The Huffington Post informing that in order to make it easier to spot biofluorescence, he and his team used a set of special cameras and research equipment designed to enhance the blue light. This in turn made the glowing colors even more visible.
He described first seeing the glowing sea turtle in another statement, given to National Geographic – the team of divers behind the study was searching for crocodiles, when suddenly the neon turtle “came out of nowhere”. It was an endangered hawksbill sea turtle that illuminated with red and green light.
The species in known to make a home for itself in tropical and subtropical waters from all over the planet. Many hunt these creatures down for their shells and their flesh. The shells are generally used to make jewelry and a few other decorative items. And people don’t just eat these animals’ flesh but also their eggs.
Since the phenomenon has never been noticed before, professor Gruber and his team needed to make sure that it extends to members of the species from across the planet, and not just the ones living in the South Pacific, or just the one specimen that presented an anomaly. To do this, they examined some hawksbill sea turtles that were being kept in captivity.
Professor Gruber shared that the divers basically took the ‘domesticated’ turtles and “shined the blue lights on them”. The results of the experiments showed that all of them presented the same neon colors as the one observed in the wild.
The next obvious question that the team had to answer was why no one noticed these animals’ biofluorescence before. Professor Gruber explained that shallow water does not receive enough blue light to make the hawksbill sea turtles glow.
What’s more, professor Gruber also “shined the blue lights” on a loggerhead turtle that he visited at an aquarium. He informed that this sea turtle also showed signs of biofluorescence, but he also admitter that he still needs to conduct further research on loggerhead turtles before he can give a definitive answer.
Funny enough, professor Gruber believes that he is not the first person to notice this phenomenon in hawksbill turtles, just the one who made it official. He shared that red and green lights can be seen on members of the species in several images, but that photographers generally attributed this to an equipment error.
Image Source: grindtv.com