Where to see the world’s first “glowing” sea turtle
You may think your eyes are deceiving you but marine biologists in the South Pacific have discovered the world’s first “glowing” sea turtle.
David Gruber of the City University of New York and his team were filming small sharks and coral reefs in the Solomon Islands when they managed to captured footage of the Hawkbill sea turtle emitting neon green and red light.
Gruber, who is an emerging explorer for National Geographic, described the turtle as looking like a “spaceship”. It is thought to be one of the first times that a bio-fluorescent reptile has been seen by scientists.
The group only managed to capture a few moments of the turtle but after speaking to locals he discovered a nearby community that kept several captive young Hawksbills. When Gruber examined the captive turtles he found that they all glowed red!
Alexander Gaos, director of the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative told the National Geographic that the discovery was “really quite amazing”. “I’ve been [studying turtles] for a long time and I don’t think anyone’s ever seen this,” Gaos said.
At this stage the scientists are still unclear as to why these turtles have the ability to fluoresce and whether other species turtle might have the same ability.
“[Bio-fluorescence is] usually used for finding and attracting prey or defense or some kind of communication,” said Gaos.
Hawksbill sea turtles are one of the rarest species of Sea Turtle and their population numbers are thought to have decreased by 90 percent in recent decades.
Like many sea turtles, Hawksbills are a critically endangered species due mostly to human impact. Hawksbill eggs are still eaten around the world despite the turtle’s international protected status, and they are often killed for their flesh and their stunning shells.
These graceful sea turtles are also threatened by accidental capture in fishing nets. They are normally found near reefs rich in the sponges they like to feed on. Hawksbills are omnivorous and will also eat mollusks, marine algae, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish, and jellyfish. Their hard shells protect them from many predators, but they still fall prey to large fish, sharks, crocodiles, octopuses, and humans.
Not particularly large compared with other sea turtles, Hawksbills grow up to about 45 inches in shell length and 150 pounds in weight. While young, their carapace, or upper shell, is heart-shaped, and as they mature it elongates. Their strikingly colored carapace is serrated and has overlapping scutes, or thick bony plates. Their tapered heads end in a sharp point resembling a bird’s beak, hence their name. A further distinctive feature is a pair of claws adorning each flipper. Male Hawksbills have longer claws, thicker tails, and somewhat brighter coloring than females.
The Solomon islands are famous for having some of the world’s best dives but are still relatively uncommon for most vacationers thus allowing you to explore this remote destination almost exclusively so you just might be able to spot your very own Hawksbill sea turtle!