New Guinea – Scientists have discovered the first bio-fluorescent reptile. A hawksbill sea turtle on the Solomon Island displayed neon green and red fluorescence and was found by National Geographic explorers.

The discovery was during an expedition near the string of islands of Papua New Guinea. The explorers, David Gruber, and Markus Reymann, found the endangered animal with these particular characteristics while scuba diving.

A hawksbill sea turtle at the Solomon Islands displayed neon green and red fluorescence. Credit: National Geographic

“It was absolutely unbelievable,” Gruber, an associate professor of biology at the City University of New York and marine biologist, told the Daily News. “The turtle’s appearance was unexpected and took everyone by surprise.”

Biofluoroscence is an ability to absorb blue light and emit green, red or orange light. It is the opposite of which is bioluminescence, from which organisms create their own light with chemical reactions, Gruber said.

This finding has opened up the door for further research on the matter. It was not known these turtles could display neon green and red bio-fluorescence. However, scientists have already some years investigating bio-fluorescence in marine species. In fact, they have found more than 200 species of fish and sharks possess these characteristics.

“It started with jellyfish and coral, and the fluorescent molecules jellyfish and coral create has led to monumental breakthroughs in biomedical science,” Gruber said.

Gruber followed the turtle for a while, before the animal dive down into the deep water. “After a few moments I let it go because I didn’t want to harass it,” he said.

Questions like whether these sea turtles can see the bio-fluorescence, where they got this ability, what its objective is, and if other sea turtles species possess a similar one remained to be unanswered.

“Scientists believe that it is possible that these turtles eat a bio-fluorescent compound to achieve the effect, or they might even be making their own. “For fish and sharks and now turtles, it’s much more mysterious”, Gruber said.

The marine biologist captured the turtle on a video camera system that only counted with a blue light, that matched the ocean, for artificial illumination. A yellow filter on the camera aimed scientists to pick up fluorescing organs.

Source: National Geographic