The hawksbill sea turtle might look like, you know, any ordinary turtle in the daytime:
But once the sun goes down, the critically endangered species turns it up a notch–much to everyone’s surprise:
Yep, that’s a glowing neon and red turtle you see there and, it turns out, it’s the first one to be spotted…ever! The proper term for the glow is called biofluorescence, which is “the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different colour,” according to National Geographics.
Since scientists started studying biofluorescence in the last decade, they’ve found biofluorescent fish, sharks and shrimp, but this is a first for turtles. Heck, this glow-in-the-dark hawksbill was spotted just by pure chance.
Last month, marine biologist David Gruber and his team were in the Solomon Islands filming biofluorescence in small sharks and coral reefs when “out of the blue what almost looked like a bright red and green spaceship came underneath my camera”:
Upon closer inspection, the team realized it wasn’t an alien ship, but a sea turtle who just wanted to get to know them better. Director Markus Reymann, who was shooting the expedition, seemed to be simply mesmerized with it.
“This turtle was just hanging out with us it was just so–it was in love with the lights…and it was glowing neon yellow,” Reymann said. “Super calm, I’ve never seen a turtle that calm.”
According to National Geographics, biofluorescence is used as a defense mechanism, for finding and attracting prey or as some kind of communication. However, Gruber says more research needs to be done to figure out exactly why these particular sea turtles glow in the dark.
“Now it opens up all these new questions to us of, what is it doing in these turtles,” he said. “We know they have really good vision. They go on these long and arduous migrations, but how are they using this? Are they using this to find each other…or to find each other.”
Hopefully scientists are able to figure this all out since the biofluorescent hawksbill sea turtle is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild, mostly due to human impact.