While diving in the South Pacific off the Solomon Islands during a research mission, a group of scientists from the City University of New York made a stunning discovery – the world’s first biofluorescent turtle ever found.
The team said that they were studying and filming corals and fish species underwater, when they saw a ‘glowing’ hawkbill sea turtle. Its neon colors were like nothing biologists have seen before in reptiles. The team unveiled the discovery Monday.
Prof. David Gruber from the City University of New York said that the turtle was a surprise to just about everyone in his team. Gruber recalls that his brain likened the animal with a glowing alien spaceship when it first entered within his line of sight.
“It was absolutely gorgeous,”
Researchers said that they were interested in biofluorescence for years. They noticed the phenomenon in corals and jelly fish. But it is the first time they witness it in sea turtles. Biofluorescence helped medical research a lot since it provided researchers with markers that revealed the hidden biological processes of cells. Currently, biofluorescence is a popular field with great potential.
Study authors explained that biofluorescence is different from bioluminescence. Bioluminescence means that the animals have an internal mechanism that generates light, see for instance fireflies, while biofluorescence means that the creature absorbs light and radiates it back often in different colors.
So far, scientists worldwide reported over 200 shark and fish species that display the feature and dozens of corals, insects, and crabs. And in every species biofluorescence has a precise role. In some fish it acts like a sunscreen especially in waters where there is too much sunlight. Some animals use biofluorescence as a method to lure prey, while others use it to communicate with their peers or find a mate.
But often biofluorescence is used to either keep predators at bay or lure prey. Yet, in sharks, some species of fish, and sea turtles it is still unclear what role does biofluorescence play.
Gruber said that especially creatures living in the ocean display the naturally occurring phenomenon because the ocean can absorb all colors except for the blue one. So, some sea animals absorb that color and transform it in other colors.
The team also said that the puzzling ‘glowing’ sea turtle is now an endangered species due to rising sea temperatures. In some regions there are only several thousand specimens left. So, researchers feel they race against time to understand the newly found species before it is gone.
Image Source: Pixabay
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