A team of scientists working with National Geographic this week got a beautiful surprise when a biofluorescent sea turtle popped into view. Its shell had a gorgeous plume-like arrangement of red, yellow, and green colors, which appear neon when light touches its surface.
Here’s how biofluorescence works: Unlike bioluminescent animals, who literally glow from within because of the bacteria that live inside them (think glow worms or fireflies), biofluorescent animals reflect the blue light of the deep ocean and turn it into a different color. That’s kind of mind-blowing, because clear ocean water absorbs every color except blue, once you get down to a depth of about 65 feet. That’s why the ocean is blue, and why, typically, any light shining in the ocean looks blue, too.
So, when divers accidentally found this beautifully glowing biofluorescent turtle while using a light on some coral in a dive around the Solomon Islands, they were pretty excited.
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, only one in every 1,000 to 10,000 sea turtles hatched will survive into adulthood.