World’s First Bioflourescent Turtle Spotted

Bioflourescence is one of the most visually stunning and mysterious biological phenomenon recorded. Seen in a few plants and many forms of fish and coral, most scientists believed that there were no bioluminescent reptiles until an unplanned underwater encounter changed that forever.

Scientists diving near the Solomon Islands were initially studying bioluminescence in shark species when the sighting occurred. Marine biologist, David Gruber was filming and holding up his blue light when he saw a huge fluorescent disk shaped creature come out of the darkness and swim past. After recovering from his shock, he realized it was a hawksbill sea turtle.

It’s an amazing find because it’s the first discovery of its kind. So far there have been no records of bioflourescent turtles found which makes the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, even more valuable to scientific research efforts now that it has shown these bioflourescent abilities.

Now, it’s important to understand the difference between bioflourescence and bioluminescence. Bioluminescence means that an animal is able to emit light on its own usually through some kind of internal chemistry. In the case of the hawksbill turtle, it’s only considered bioflourescent, which means that it can absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect them back as a different color. Some animals can be both bioluminescent and bioflourescent but when it comes to the hawksbill sea turtle, it’s still too early to tell.

Gruber and his fellow researchers also feel it’s a bit too early to speculate about why the hawksbill sea turtle would be bioflourescent. Past research into bioflourescent creatures has yielded a variety of options from predator camouflage to mating displays. Marine biologists will most definitely be looking more deeply into this new discovery to understand more about bioflourecence in the hawksbill sea turtle, and its evolutionary importance.

Photo credit: David Gruber/National Geographic

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