Scientists diving near the Solomon Islands in July discovered a rare biofluorescent hawksbill sea turtle

By Alex Heigl
Updated September 29, 2015 03:30 PM
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EVERYONE, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

THEY DISCOVERED A GLOW-IN-THE-DARK SEA TURTLE.

Scientists diving near the Solomon Islands in July discovered a rare biofluorescent hawksbill sea turtle, which they believe to be the first of its kind. (Biofluorescence, where an animal reflects blue light hitting its surface as a different color, is different from bioluminescence, where an animal produces its own light or hosts microorganisms that do so for it.)

“I’ve been [studying turtles] for a long time and I don’t think anyone’s ever seen this,” Alexander Gaos, director of the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative, told National Geographic. “This is really quite amazing.” (Gaos was not involved with the discovery.)

Certain breeds of fish, sharks, rays and crustaceans, like mantis shrimp, have all exhibited fluorescence, but this is the first example of the behavior in a marine reptile.

Marine biologist David Gruber, of City University of New York, who filmed the turtle off the coast of the Solomon Islands, examined some local captive hawksbills and discovered that they could all glow red.

Unfortunately, the hawksbill’s skills will have to remain a mystery right now. “It’d be fairly difficult to study this turtle because there are so few left and they’re so protected,” Gruber told NatGeo. Over the past few decades, worldwide population numbers for the species have declined almost 90 percent.