Recently released footage shows a neon glow bouncing off a turtle's shell in the Solomon Islands.
A Hawksbill sea turtle glowing green with streaks of red in a coral reef is said to be the first biofluorescent reptile discovered. While searching for small species of biofluorescent sharks, David Gruber, a City University of New York assistant professor and marine biologist, spotted the turtle during a dive.
According to Gruber, scientists have hypothesized that biofluorescence has a potential "covert" means of communication.
The phenomenon is a result of the absorption, transformation and emiting of a different light. Gruber and his team used a blue light and yellow filter to pick up the fluorescing organisms, National Geographic reported.
Biofluorescence is not to be confused with bioillumination where white light is produced by a chemical reaction.
"We now hope to study the vision of this turtle to see what colors they see and how they perceive biofluorescence," Gruber said in an email. "We also plan to investigate what molecule is causing the fluorescence."
Gruber and his team were in the Solomon Islands participating in a Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary 21 (TBA 21) expedition, National Geographic reported. TBA 21 is a fellowship organization bringing artists, scientists and thinkers together and commissions projects around the study of geographical issues on land and in the sea.
"It was a totally unexpected finding. We were blown away," he said. "It highlights how many mysteries there are left to be discovered in the ocean."
Biofluorescence was first intensively studied in corals. Last year, scientists were surprised to find it widespread in fish and sharks, Gruber said.
Gruber said Hawksbill turtles like the one discovered are critically endangered and remain under threat because of climate change, illegal trade, by-catch and legal fishing.
"This observation of fluorescence in Hawksbill turtles highlights the urgency to understand and better protect and manage this species while they still exist," he said.
Photo Credit: David Gruber