While on an underwater exploration to capture footage of coral in the waters off the Solomon Islands, marine biologist David Gruber encountered an affable turtle whose shell glowed with red and green biofluorescence, a feature not ever before seen in a reptile. This sighting was extremely rare as this type of turtle, a hawkbill sea turtle is considered to be critically endangered.
This find has opened up a whole universe of questions that Gruber is eager to explore. They include whether these turtles can see the biofluorescence, where they get the ability—do they take in compounds from their food that let them fluoresce, or do they make their own compounds—how they’re using it, and whether other sea turtle species possess a similar ability.”It’d be fairly difficult to study this turtle because there are so few left and they’re so protected,” says Gruber. Worldwide, their population numbers have declined by nearly 90 percent in recent decades. …Hawksbill sea turtles are one of the rarest species on our planet, Gruber says, yet for all their conservation importance, the animals remain a mystery.