Marine biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, David Gruber, has discovered a "glowing" sea turtle, the first of its kind to encounter humans. Gruber was filming coral off the coast of the Solomon Islands when he came across what he described as a "bright red and green spaceship". The strange UFO turned out to be the first biofluorescent sea turtle ever discovered.
The hawksbill sea turtle was apparently drawn to the lights the crew was using to film nearby coral. It "hung out" with the film crew for a few moments before diving away. Gruber described the creature as being green across the head and having spots of red across its back, although he acknowledged that until they are able to "really start to look at it chemically" they won't know exactly which type of florescence the turtle has.
The most remarkable part of this amazing discovery is the fact that this is the first time biofluoresce has been found in reptiles. Biofluorescence was previously discovered in jellyfish, coral, shrimp, and fish, but had not been discovered in any other species. The hawksbill sea turtle is a known species, but researchers hadn't yet discovered its ability to biofluoresce. The glowing effect only happens at night, and only in blue light.
Shortly after making the discovery, Gruber also found another species of sea turtle that glows, loggerhead turtles. These turtles biofluoresce green under similar circumstances to the hawksbill sea turtles.
This discovery has opened up a number of new avenues for research as it raises many questions about the purpose of the florescence in the turtles. Gruber explained that sea turtles have "really good vision", and wonders if they are "using this to find each other" or if they are "using this to attract each other."
Hopefully, researches will have an opportunity to answer these questions before the "critically endangered" species becomes extinct. As Gruber pointed out, in some places there are "just a few thousand breeding females remaining", and it would be a shame if their rich and interesting history remained undiscovered.
Watch the incredible footage below.