During an expedition in July, Marine Biologist David Gruber from the City University of New York discovered a Hawksbill sea turtle that can glow (biofluorescence) when exposed to blue light. This is the first ever discovery of a glowing turtle. CBC reports that David Gruber discovered the turtle by accident while searching for glowing sharks, while in Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
According to CNN, the turtle is absorbing light and using it to glow which is called biofluorescence. Bioluminence is when an animal glows on its own without a light source. The turtle uses biofluorescence only.
Since the turtle can only glow if external light source hits it (Biofluoresce), How did Gruber and his team spot the Turtle?
“To make it easier to spot the turtles he used the light from his camera “filming at night with a blue light makes the biofluorescent animals glow much more distinctly, so that’s what Gruber did.”
Emily Chung of CBC News, http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/biofluorescent-hawksbill-turlte-1.3250895
The following is what he had to say about first discovering The Hawksbill turtle.
” ‘It was absolutely gorgeous,’Gruber said in an interview with CNN. ‘The turtle swam into the team’s lights while they were filming coral underwater. The turtle’s appearance was unexpected and took everyone by surprise’, he said. “
The discoveries that David Gruber and other Marine Biologists are making may help to treat human illness in the near future.
“It’s a bit like a mystery novel,” Gruber said. “It started with jellyfish and coral, and the fluorescent molecules jellyfish and coral create has lead to monumental breakthroughs in biomedical science.”
“Fluorescence has helped provide a marker for scientists to see the inner workings of cells and that has partially lead to an explosion in research in the biofluorescence field, Gruber explained.”
An article from the Guardian written in 2014 explains further what David Gruber means about the application of biofluorescence to medicine. Extracting the Bioflorecence protein seems to be the goal.
Accordingto Brian Palmer of the Washington Post:
“…a protein that can make light and another compound to serve as the light’s fuel – may allow us to map brain activity to a new level of detail. This advance may some day give quadriplegics new ways to interact with the world…
…Biologists eventually realised that they could attach GFP [Green Florencent Protein] to virtually anything inside a cell, then shine a blue light on it to observe its movements and activities….
…By shining the right wavelength of light on to the animal, scientists could watch cancer spread or the immune system fight viruses.”
Hopefully biofluorescence will help doctors save lives and treat difficult illnesses very soon.
Watch the video below to see the glowing Hawksbill Turtle.