No, it wasn’t discovered in the sewers of New York, but good guess. Actually, awful guess.
A team of scientists were doing their thing in the Solomon Islands – near Papua New Guinea – and discovered a glowing hawskbill sea turtle. There weren’t any containers of ooze to be found so the scientists knew they stumbled upon something legit. What they’ve discovered is the first documented case of bioflourescence in a reptile. This isn’t to be confused with bioluminescence, which is when animals produce their own light via a chemical reaction. Biofluorescence is when an organism absorbs light, transforms it and ejects it as a different color.
Plenty of animals like some fish, sharks, rays and cephalopods have been known to do this , but our shelled friend represents the first case in a reptile. Thanks, National Geographic for reporting on this!
So how did it all go down? Well, marine biologist David Gruber of City University New York was chillin’ out, maxin’ relaxin’ all cool with his team in the Solomon Islands this past July with the intent trying to film biofluorescence in small sharks and coral reefs. But boy, were they in for a surprise! They wound up taking this video of that rad turtle. And since we know you’re wondering just how the hell this happened without ooze we’re gonna turn it over to NatGeo writer Jane J. Lee.
“[Biofluorescence is] usually used for finding and attracting prey or defense or some kind of communication,” says Gaos. In this instance, it could be a kind of camouflage for the sea turtle.
The hawksbill’s shell is very good at concealing the animal in a rocky reef habitat during the day, [Alexander]Gaos explains. “When we go out to catch them, sometimes they’re really hard to spot.”
The same could be true for a habitat rife with biofluorescing animals—like a coral reef.
In fact, Gruber pointed out that some of the red on the hawksbill he saw could have been because of algae on the shell that was fluorescing. The green is definitely from the turtle though, he says.
Far out, man. The real bummer about this new discovery is that the hawksbill turtle is critically endangered and one of the rarest on the planet. Hopefully some idiot doesn’t go diving for them with the intent of using them to start their own glow stick business.