The depths of the ocean hold all sorts of bright and wonderful surprises, though perhaps none have as much of a glow as the hawksbill turtle spotted by marine biologist David Gruber off the Solomon Islands this summer. Gruber was studying biofluorescence in sea creatures, looking for animals that emit absorbed light in such a way that they seem to glow. He’d already found a lot of fascinating animals to study, and then a glowing red and green saucer swam by. It was a hawksbill turtle with a brightly lit shell, the first biofluorescent reptile ever seen. Check out National Geographic’s video of the discovery above. Since then, the team has observed other fluorescent hawkbills as well.
Hawksbill turtles are one of the animals protected by New Zealand’s new ocean sanctuary that was also announced this week. Hawksbill turtles are an endangered species, and researchers like Gruber are just starting to learn more about them. They aren’t sure exactly how or why the animals fluoresce.