No, this isn’t a clip from the latest Miyazaki anime, this is the first sighting of a real fluorescent turtle.
Marine biologist David Gruber of City University of New York, was recently in the Solomon Islands to film a variety of biofluorescent fish and coral, when suddenly a completely unexpected sight burst into the frame: a glowing yellow and red sea turtle. The creature is a critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle, and until this sighting last July, the phenomenon had never been documented in turtles, let alone any other reptile.
Biofluorescence is the ability for an organism to reflect blue light and re-emit it as a different color, not to be confused with bioluminescence, where organisms produce their own light.
Many undersea creatures like coral, sharks, and some shrimp have shown the ability to show single green, red, or orange colors under the right lighting conditions, but according to National Geographic, no organisms have shown the ability to emit two distinct colors like the hawksbill. As seen in the video, the coloring appears not only in mottled patterns on the turtle’s shell, but even extends within the cracks of its head and feet. Gruber mentions this could be a mixture of both glowing red glowing algae attached to the turtle, but the yellow fluorescence is undoubtedly part of the animal.
Watch the video above to see the moment of discovery and learn more on Nat Geo.