The Glowing Sea Turtle

Turtle Lights Up the Ocean

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On July 31, David Gruber, a marine biologist from New York, discovered something remarkable. He found a biofluorescent sea turtle in a remote area off the coast of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Gruber and his team were diving to study biofluorescence in small sharks and coral reefs when this glowing hawksbill sea turtle swam right up to them. They were amazed and thrilled that they found the first biofluorescent marine reptile known to man. Gruber and his team also said that they have a lot to learn about biofluorescence and are just “scratching the surface”.

There is more to biofluorescence than you may think. You also may have heard the term bioluminescence. Well, there’s a difference. Biofluorescence is when an animal, usually a fish, absorbs a certain colored light, transforms it in their bodies, and ejects it in a different color. Bioluminescence is the production of light in a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence. Chemiluminescence is the production of light from a chemical reaction. Usually, only small bacteria, vertebrates, and invertebrates can have bioluminescence. People might also get confused because sometimes bioluminescent bacteria live on a different animal, which makes it look like the larger animal is biofluorescent. Also, scientists think that marine animals can create biofluorescence better if they’re underwater. The ocean absorbs all other colors except for blue. This is how animals absorb blue light, transform it in their bodies, and eject it in another color, usually green or red. Studies also show that sea creatures might use biofluorescence to lure their prey, communicate, and/or to create contrast.

The hawksbill sea turtle is also critically endangered. In some places, there are only a couple thousand turtles. It is of great urgency that we protect and learn more about these magnificent creatures so we will be able enjoy them in the future.