This isn’t just a catchy headline.
A team of researchers on a night dive in the Solomon Islands came across a hawksbill sea turtle glowing like a neon sign, and documented the first ever case of biofluorescence in a reptile.
Biofluorescence is when an organism absorbs one colour and then reflects it as a completely different colour. Biofluorescence is not to be confused with bioluminescence, where organisms are capable of producing their own light, usually through a chemical reaction. To put it simply, biofluorescent animals can change the colour of existing light, and bioluminescent animals can create their own light.
Seeing bioluminescence underwater is one of the most breathtaking things you can see night diving. Many small organisms are bioluminesent, and put on a spectacular show for night divers. There is few things more surreal than switching your dive torch off and watching the thousands of tiny fluorescent lights dance around you.
Marine Biologist David Gruber, was in the Solomon Islands to film bioluminescence displayed by coral and small reef sharks. You can imagine his surprise when a hawksbill turtle came swimming into view, glowing a distinct red and green (if you don’t believe us check out the video from National Geographic below!) Until this moment, biofluorescence had never before been seen in any reptile, let alone a sea turtle. The divers swam alongside the brightly glowing animal, filming it using a camera fitted with a yellow filter designed to pick up on fluorescent animals within the frame.
Gruber explained that the red glow on the turtle’s shell may be from algae growth, but that the yellow and green was emitted from the turtle. Animals normally use biofluorescence as a defence mechanism or as a form of communication, but exactly why these mysterious and critically endangered sea turtles glow is a question that is now waiting to be answered.
Want to dive in the Solomon Islands? The Bilikiki liveaboard is one of the best live aboards in the area, and visits the main 3 island groups of Florida Island, Russel Island and Marovo Lagoon which boast and array of incredible and diverse dive sites.