CLOSE

Scientists Discovered the First 'Glowing' Sea Turtle

When marine biologist David Gruber visited the Solomon Islands in July to study biofluorescence, he never expected to find the glowing phenomenon in a sea turtle. No other reptiles are known to exhibit this colorful quality, and the glowing hawksbill sea turtle he filmed marks the first ever biofluorescent reptile known to science.

"It almost looks like a bright red and green space ship came right underneath my camera," he told National Geographic.

While bioluminescence is the ability for animals to produce their own light through chemical reactions, biolfluorescence occurs when an organism reflects blue light hitting a surface and reproduces it as a different color. The occurrence has been observed in a number of fish, corals, sharks, rays, mantis shrimp, and tiny crustaceans called copepods. It’s normally used as a method for attracting prey or as some form of communication, but it’s still too early to say how exactly it benefits the hawksbill. 

One possible explanation is that the same shell that provides an impressive camouflage during the day could light up at night as a way of helping the turtles blend in with the fluorescent coral reef. Corals are the only other organisms that have been observed producing multiple glowing colors, but Gruber points out that the turtle's red color may be the product of fluorescent algae on its shell. Even if that’s the case, he says the turtle’s neon green markings are definitely the real deal. 

Hawksbill sea turtles are one of the rarest species on the planet, with their worldwide populations having dwindled by 90 percent in just the past few decades. It’s difficult to study a species when it’s so endangered, so Gruber plans to seek out answers to the questions his discovery raised by looking at the green sea turtle, a close relative of the hawksbill. 

[h/t: National Geographic]

Original image
iStock
arrow
technology
This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
Original image
iStock

Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
Original image
iStock

According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios