“What did you find?”
“We found a biofluorescant turtle!”
Marine biologist David Gruber was last year chosen as one of National Geographic’s “Emerging Explorers” – a handful of young adventurers selected each year and given $US10,000 for research and exploration.
Gruber has made it his life’s work to dive the ocean’s reefs at night in search of new forms of bioluminescence and biofluorescence.
He describes the ability of marine animals to glow as a “secret language” that helps them communicate, interact, and avoid enemies.
But until recently, he’s never seen biofluoresecence in a reptile – and nobody has seen it before him in a turtle.
This is how we’ve seen hawksbill sea turtles up until Gruber and fellow diver Markus Reymann’s discovery:
And here’s what he and Reymann spotted on a night dive near the Solomon Islands while using ultraviolet light:
“It just basically bumped into us,” Gruber said. “I was just filming coral and it came into my lens and then hung out with us for like, five minutes.”
The red glow could possibly be attributed to algae on the turtle’s shell, but Gruber says the yellow glow “definitely” belongs to the turtle itself.
The hawksbill sea turtle is classified by the World Conservation Union as critically endangered and are known to take long migratory journeys.
Gruber says now the secret’s out about the hawksbill’s biofluoresence, the next question was “what is it doing in these turtles?”
“Are they using it to find each other, are they using it to attract each other?”
You can read more about the biofluorescent hawksbill sea turtle here at National Geographic.
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