World’s First “Glowing” Sea Turtle Discovered

The reptile was found in the waters of the Solomon Islands. | By NGT Staff  
turtle glow in the dark
This is the first time that biofluorescence has been seen in a marine reptile. Photo: National Geographic/YouTube

A chance discovery made in the waters of the South Pacific has given the world a glimpse of the first-ever “glowing” sea turtle.

Spotted by marine biologist David Gruber of City University of New York, while diving in the Solomon Islands, the critically endangered hawksbill turtle was the first reptile observed to be exhibiting biofluorescence, which National Geographic explains, is “the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color.” This is different from bioluminescence, which is an animal’s ability to produce their own light from within. Luminous fish, fungi and birds have been studied for decades. (You can see some really cool pictures of these beings here). However, this behaviour wasn’t expected from a marine reptile.

Gruber and his team were busy studying biofluorescence in sharks and coral reefs around the Solomon Islands, when a luminous turtle swam into their view, like a “bright red-and-green spaceship.” Its shell glowed green and red. Gruber points out that while the red could be from flourescent algae on the shell, the green was from the turtle.

Studying this phenomenon in hawksbill turtles could be difficult given that there are so few of them remaining in the wild.

Watch Gruber talk about the experience in the video below:


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