Scientists Discover ‘Elusive’ White Sea Turtle Hatchling on South Carolina Beach

by Halle Ames
(Photo Credit: AKIM REZGUI / Contributor/ Getty Images)

Volunteers in South Carolina made a startling discovery when checking their hatchlings on Sunday due to a baby white sea turtle hiding in the group.

The baby white loggerhead sea turtle is thought to have leucism. This is a genetic condition that causes animals to have reduced pigmentation and black eyes. The difference between leucism and albinism is that leucism is only the particle loss of pigmentation, whereas albinism is the total absence of melanin, which causes pigmentation. 

On Facebook, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, shared a post about the animal found in the sand by the Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol last Sunday. 

The town wrote about the experience in the caption for the post. “This morning, our Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol #kitp, Zone 8, inventoried the last nest on the island. #338. You can imagine the excited “oohs” and the “aah’s” from the guests, including some @collegeofcharleston students, when the patroller found alone, leucistic hatchling in the nest.” 

The post has gone viral with over 700 likes and 120 comments. Many people commented their thanks to the Turtle Patrol for the great find. 

White Sea Turtle Survival

It is extremely rare for an animal to be born with leucism. However, it is even more challenging for the animal to survive due to its color standing out. 

“Camouflage is important to all animals, particularly very small sea turtle hatchlings that are predated on by almost everything,” said the Olive Ridley Project, a sea turtle conservation group. “So, to be born white makes you stand out and very visible to predators.”

For the first few months of a sea turtle’s life, they will spend it hiding in seaweed from potential predators. They will eat as much as they can to help them grow as fast as they can. The bigger the turtle, the less of a target they are. 

[H/T Fox News]