February 8, 2023

Cayman Islands Turtle Farm hosts team from National Geographic

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Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 11.19.55 AMCayman Turtle Farm (CTF) was glad to host a small team of researchers from National Geographic, who are undertaking pioneering research in fluorescence of sea animals.

It was in 2015 while diving at night in the Solomon Islands that they began noticing than many different kinds of marine animals, including, unexpectedly, in turtles. Biofluorescence means that the animal is able to take in light of one color, and re-emit it as another colour, usually red, green or orange. Team member David Gruber said: “We noted there was biofluorescence in a Hawksbill turtle in the Solomon Islands, so now we’re digging deeper into this phenomenon: We wanted to examine more turtles, and so we’re here to examine green turtles to see if they’re also bioluminescent.”

So far, it isn’t known exactly what, in the turtle, emits the light, but it is thought that possibly it is a protein produced by the turtle. They are not yet really sure what it’s used for, either, but are exploring the possibility it may be some kind of signaling pattern.

The first evening they were here, the team went around some of the tanks shining a special blue light, and seeing how the turtles behaved. They seemed attracted to the light, and they seemed to get quite excited by it, too.

The following night the team were able to put their special low-light-sensitive video camera into the Breeders Pond, to see if they could get film of the phenomenon. The special blue light is filtered out by the camera, so that only the red and green and orange fluorescent light was filmed.

“The nice thing about this is there is a variety of ages and sexes, so in one shot we could quickly look at different age groups and males and females to see if we recognized any differences in patterns,” Mr. Gruber said. “So far we see that these green turtles are quite fluorescent and this is our first observation. Our next thing is to look at the vision of these turtles; to examine their vision and how they see.”

CTF’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Walter Mustin, said: “We are delighted to have hosted these scientists and researchers and enable all of us to better understand sea turtle biology and improve turtle husbandry, and turtle conservation.”

Caption: The research team looked at bioluminescence in Green sea turtles at CTF.

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