Marine biologists near the Solomon Islands recently stumbled upon a creature exhibiting an insanely cool characteristic: a biofluorescent Hawksbill sea turtle. Having seen the trait previously in other marine life, this is the first time scientists have spotted it in an aquatic reptile. The UFO-like shell of the turtle exhibited an additionally interesting quality, as it glowed in not one, but two colors: green and red.
Biofluorescence is the process by which light is absorbed, and then re-emitted at a lower frequency. This conversion is typically represented underwater as blue light being transferred to a radiant red, orange, or green. Invisible to the naked eye, the scientists, who were on a dive to explore biofluorescence in sharks, utilized a yellow filter over their camera to spot the phenomenon, and were surprised when they happened upon the glowing turtle.
The most common function of biofluorescence is to equip organisms with the ability to attract, locate, and differentiate between one another, especially during mating season. Special filters within the eye of these organisms allow them to block out the blue light that appears under water, while permitting them to remain invisible to predators.
In addition to providing a better understanding of marine diversity and evolution, biofluorescence could offer some amazing developments in biomedical research. The proteins involved in fluorescence have great potential for illuminating specific cell segments, giving us greater insight into the way they function.